The Meaning of the Word "Day" in Genesis 1

On the “yom with a number can only mean a 24 hour day” rule.

Hugh Ross pointed out in a podcast back in 2005 that the earliest known reference to the “yom with a number” and “yom with an evening/morning construct” rules dates back to material from the Institute for Creation Research back in the 1970s or so. He said he had tried but failed to find a reference to this rule that predates the 1960 publication of Whitcomb and Morris’s book “The Genesis Flood” and hence modern late 20th/early 21st century young earth creationism. Nor has he been able to find a reference that is independent of the young-earth movement.

If this is the case, then it would appear that these rules are nothing more than a fabrication by the young-earth organisations. Certainly, I would expect that if there were any merit to them, we would have had to contend with atheists and liberal theologians rubbing our noses in them right throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

(The podcast was “Creation Update #259”; link to podcast here; index page on RTB website here; discussion starts at 1:10:15.)

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I discussed the YOM in Genesis 1 issue with Bruce Waltke at an AAR/SBL conference many years ago. He agreed that (1) there is absolutely no reason to doubt what scientists have determined about the fact that solar days used to be much shorter [I corrected my original wording!] than 24 hours, and that (2) a solar day interpretation of the first three days (as well as the use of evening/morning) is obviously problematic because of the creation of the sun on YOM #4. I’ve had no one-on-one conversations with Waltke since my retirement but I’d be surprised if his impression of Genesis 1 is much different from mine in this regard: The “solar day” of Genesis 1 is that of a hymnic structure: using the analogy of a seven-day week to tell about God’s role in creation and to contrast with other neighboring religions of the day,which assigned various gods and goddesses to the various domains of the world we observe. The use of chiasm can’t be ignored.

If I recall Waltke’s YOM arguments correctly, he was reacting against the Old Earth Creationists who often overplay the alternative definitions for YOM rather than to notice that YOM isn’t being used for a strictly prose purpose. That is, the “solar day” aspect of YOM is just a starting point for describing a theological rather astronomical set of concepts. I’ve already given an analogy in Carl Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar”. Sagan used the word “calendar” in its 365-days in a year sense, representing the first definition under the word “calendar” in an English lexicon. But that does NOT mean that Sagan thought the universe was one year old. He was using the well understood, conventional calendar to view the vast history of billions of years in time-relative and proportionate ways. Likewise, Genesis 1 makes use of a solar day NOT to teach us a chronological and scientific account of creation but to contrast Israel’s God with all others.

Dr. Barr never was the one-and-only end-all of Hebrew lexicography. (Why choose Barr as the final authority?) His sound-bite makes a great debate nugget for preaching to the Young Earth Creationist choir, but to pretend that it somehow settles the issue is bizarre.

As to the waw-consecutive argument, few Hebrew structures have seen such overly strained exegetical exaggerations. Obviously, it is the kind of argument that is sure to leave the non-scholar wondering who they should believe. So there is zero chance of it being settled in a few sentences here, so I won’t even try.

And yes, a half century ago I was entirely enthusiastic about the “wav-consecutive proves Genesis 1 must be historical narrative” argument. (That was before computer-based stylometry studies gave it a revival and the rise of Internet websites from origins ministries gave it popularity.) I used it in my talks at Bible conferences all the time. My first major rebuke came from my first year Hebrew professor, a Jewish rabbi and Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature editor who put me in my place in about two minutes. (I was a young science professor headed for a career change.) He bombarded me with about a dozen reasons why Genesis 1 didn’t fit my very traditional interpretation. He also asked me, “In standard prose that is an historical account, how likely are you to dutifully recite And the evening and the morning was the Nth YOM? Do you commonly write in a structure of verses and choruses?”

If there is “no question” about it, why do so many of us consider it ridiculous? Once again, I challenge everyone: Show me a respected Hebrew grammar reference book which considers this strained restricted-to-the-Tanakh “rule” to be the final determinant of meaning. (Good luck.) The same Hebrew professor I mentioned previously took me to a half dozen parallel usages in the Talmud and gave me an excellent introduction (aka drubbing) as to why rabbinical scholars often sneer at the “tunnel vision” (his term) of “evangelical diletantes” (his term) when it comes to our misunderstandings of Classical Hebrew. Sadly, we have a long tradition of pretending that the Tanakh is the only ancient Hebrew text, and our syntactical studies begin and end with it as if no other Hebrew corpus exists.


Well stated. I first heard of this alleged “rule” from John Whitcomb Jr. but I was never able to find it in any Hebrew grammar book at that time. John once offered to send me a citation for it but never did. (That conversation probably occurred sometime in the late 1960’s.)

This is a matter you can research, but first, you need to make sure you get the rule right. It’s not “yom with a number” and “yom with an evening/morning construct.”

Have you read the articles? Read those, and let’s interact on the ideas there. Hasel’s article and McCabe’s article are linked and you can see for yourself what they say. You don’t need an argument prior to 1960. Can you imagine how much would be ruled out if that were the standard? All we need to do is examine the data as scientists say we should do.

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Thanks, OldTimer. If I might respond …

[quote=“OldTimer, post:43, topic:4219”]
If I recall Waltke’s YOM arguments correctly …
[/quote]Here are Waltke’s comments: “To be sure, the six days in the Genesis creation account are our twenty-four hour days” (Bruce K. Waltke, “The Literary Genre of Genesis Chapter One,” Crux 27 [December 1991]: 8). He goes on to assert that “they are metaphorical representations beyond human comprehension and imitation.”

Waltke clearly understands (or at least understood) the intent and the grammar. He defends his position with the comment about them being metaphorical and beyond comprehension, although it’s difficult to understand why they would be beyond comprehension. Most of us are pretty familiar with the idea of “day.” It’s not really hard to understand unless you are predetermined to get another conclusion. I don’t say that to sound prejudicial. I just think that is a large part of what’s going on in some areas.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:43, topic:4219”]
As to the waw-consecutive argument, few Hebrew structures have seen such overly strained exegetical exaggerations.
[/quote]I think that’s an overreach for anyone who reads Hebrew. It is a pretty well recognized feature of Hebrew grammar. Waltke and O’Connor in their standard An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax say, “Situations described with wayyqtl are mostly temporally or logically succeeding [quotation of S. R. Driver saying the same thing] … Wayyqtl signifies logical succession where a logical entailment from a preceding situation(s) (##2-4) is expressed” (33.2.1.a).

Similarly, a more recent work (Van der Merwe, Christo, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze, Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, and Jan Kroeze. A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. Electronic ed. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999) says, “Waw consecutive + imperfect bears reference to the same temporal spheres and aspects as a perfect form but it is also characterized by ‘progression’.” (21.2.1)

There are exceptions but the majority (yea, overwhelming majority) of waw-consecutives in Hebrew are narrative chronological indicators, particularly in narrative sections.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:43, topic:4219”]
“In standard prose that is an historical account, how likely are you to dutifully recite And the evening and the morning was the Nth YOM? Do you commonly write in a structure of verses and choruses?”
[/quote]This one seems pretty easy to me: As many times as you need to emphasize that everything that happened happened on that particular occurrence of the earth’s rotation. That’s not a mind-boggling question to me. It’s not even provocative. If the author is trying to emphasize that a series of things happens within in a particular time frame, that would be a very reasonable expectation. I think comparing that to how moderns write or speak is misguided in that our way of doing history is completely different. We don’t think at all like the ancients in many cases. BTW, isn’t that one of the arguments of the old-earthers? That their way of thinking was so different than ours? You are comparing two entirely different ways of thinking, writing, living, etc.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:43, topic:4219”]
If there is “no question” about it, why do so many of us consider it ridiculous?
[/quote]I would suggest perhaps two reasons: (1) the meaning of יוֹם is not being debated mainly by Hebrew readers, much less scholars who have the knowledge and tools to do the work and (2) people have a predetermined conclusion to reach as in “It can’t be a 24 hour day because that’s not how it happened; therefore, it has to mean something else.”

I would be curious as to how many people participating here (yourself included) are even aware of Hasel or McCabe’s arguments (which other have made as well), much less have read them and interacted with them. I would imagine not many for the simple reason that people are often not interested in a view they do not already hold and particularly if it requires the investment of thought. They have already decided and need to do no further reading or study. I find that unfortunate. It’s one reason I read here at Biologos. I intend to keep informed and thinking. Have you read those articles? What is your interaction with them?

I would be interested in these parallel usages in the Talmud. Do you have a list of them handy? I would like to check them out. I imagine that one consideration is the time issue. The Talmud postdates the OT by at least 500-1000 years by a critical date, and most likely by 1500-2000 years by a conservative date. We would expect over time to see a change in language. That’s why the study of classical Greek is different than the study of Koine Greek even though they are separated by only a few hundred years.

So I don’t think you have moved us ahead here much.

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Many of the people here grew up convinced of young earth creationism, and it was the only position they believed was credible or allowable for faithful Christians. They changed their minds when presented with mountains of conflicting evidence and when it was exposed how much information had obviously been twisted, omitted, misrepresented, and plain old fabricated by young earth science writers. Going through this experience makes a person feel burned in a way. It is hard to go back to a source that you trusted and you now believe lied to you and read what they write with an open mind. They’ve lost their credibility.

Some people are here honestly exploring claims of “both sides,” but the majority aren’t in flux, they’ve; already done their exploring and decided whose framework they trust more. It’s not a matter of not wanting to do further study, it’s a matter of directing your study at things that are still open questions in your mind. If you’ve already concluded that the entire YEC framework is a mess and the people who advocate it misrepresent reality, why would you want to invest time in reopening debate on a minor point? Changing your mind on one minor point is not going to redeem the framework or the reputation of its advocates.

If you’re happy with YEC and it answers all your questions to your satisfaction, then by all means carry on with it. But don’t assume that other people’s rejection of YEC is based on ignorance of what YEC claims. A lot of time it’s the opposite. It’s the former YEC people who studied YEC claims more in depth and realized how incoherent and untenable they were that you find in these esoteric discussions. People who have never known anything but evolution usually don’t see the point in engaging these minutiae at all.


Then perhaps you would care to explain how I’ve got it wrong?

I scanned McCabe’s article. Looks like mostly common or garden YEC arguments to me. His citations certainly include a lot of references to AIG/CMI/ICR literature.

No, but I do need evidence that the young earth organisations aren’t just inventing rules of Hebrew grammar and Biblical exegesis in order to make the authority of the Bible dependent on the age of the earth.

Arguments that come later than the publication of The Genesis Flood, and whose earliest appearances were in YEC literature, don’t give much confidence in that respect.

Oh brother …

What is a day?

  1. Only twice a year is the day and the night of equal length. All the other days they are unequal.

  2. So how about 24 hours? Every century, what we call 24 hours actually becomes longer. 2000 years ago… a day was SHORTER than 24 hours. This is because the tidal resistance created by the Moon and the Sun are slowing down Earth’s rotation. So which year are we using to mark a day?

  3. How about the old stand by? - - a day is how long between Sunrises… no matter how long it takes. But God doesn’t create the Sun until Day 4 …

So… just WHAT is a day? It doesn’t seem like the Creationists are WAYYY too adamant about what a day might be…


First, I hope nobody quotes snippets from my writings of 35 years ago which no longer represent my position. (I can’t speak for Bruce Waltke, but I’ve learned plenty in 35 years and can only hope that some of my poorly worded prose of long ago is not brought back to haunt me.)

Secondly, I know from conversing with Waltke that he freely acknowledges that the earth’s rotation is slowing down and that in the past the earth’s solar day was closer to 23 hours. Perhaps you missed it but part of my point is that it is overreaching to claim that YOM in Genesis 1 must be a 24 hour day and not some other length. Demanding that it be a 24-hour day is simply not in the text.

Thirdly, you have not explained to us how the Hebrew words for “evening” and “morning” have their “literal meaning” (a phrase that always makes me wince because few who use the word “literal” agree upon its exact meaning) in a world where there is no sun in the sky.

Fourthly, you somehow miss the fact that Waltke goes on to show that he does NOT mean “the six days in the Genesis creation account are our twenty-four hour days” in the same way you do because—according to your quotation from his work—he goes on to say, “they are metaphorical representations beyond human comprehension and imitation.” Once Waltke explains that he understands the six YOM metaphorically, then I’m entirely willing to say that he and I are in agreement on the meaning of YOM!

I already explained this analogical use of YOM with the example of Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar”. Sagan was indeed using the words “hour”, “minute”, “second”, “day”, “month”, and “year” in the same sense as our conventional, lexicon uses of those words. Yet, Sagan did not think that Homo sapiens literally first appeared mere milliseconds ago nor did he think that planet earth was devoid of all life for only a matter of months! Is it not that much more difficult to understand Waltke when he says that the common Hebrew word for day, YOM, was used metaphorically just as you appear to concede? (I’m not saying that you agree with Waltke’s position. I’m simply saying that I assume that you are conceding that Waltke understood the six YOM in Genesis 1 as metaphorical. In so doing, you are also conceding that Waltke is a citation better suited to back up my position rather than yours!)

Yes! Thank you for making that point. I constantly remind my YEC scholar opponents of that fact whenever they come up with their novel rules of grammar and lexicography!

Young Earth Creationist commentators regularly present word and grammar studies which treat ancient Hebrew as a single language that never changes—some even telling me that that consistency throughout the centuries spanning the Hebrew Masoretic Text is another trait of divine inspiration—and they’ve always gotten very angry with me when I show them that we no longer make those “Holy Spirit Koine Greek” and “Holy Spirit Hebrew” claims of a century ago! And that is why, when dealing with YECist commentators and origins industry entrepreneurs, I find myself having to temporarily play along with their bias on this matter, just to debunk it. That is why I ask them if they have concorded their words, phrases, and grammatical constructions into the extra-Biblical Semitic texts in order to test whether their alleged “rules” are actually born out as consistently and as universally as they claim. (The answer is usually no.)

Whenever Young Earth Creationist commentators treat the Hebrew of Genesis and Job as if the exact same vocabulary and grammar applies as in the late prophets and beyond, I remind them of the enormous time span–and compare it to the English language where few of us can still read Beowulf in the original tongue. So I entirely agree with you. But I refuse to allow the YECists the freedom to be inconsistent. (They can’t have it both ways depending upon the demands of the debate point of the moment.)

As to Dr. McCabe, for example, yes, you will always find it possible to cite another Young Earth Creationist at a Young Earth Creationist institution who must agree with your traditional position on Genesis because he would immediately lose his job if he didn’t. In peer-reviewed science, we evaluate the quality and significance of published scholarship based on how often a title is referenced by other scholars of the diverse academy. And I don’t mean just the other scholars who happen to hold the exact same Genesis positions at other confessional institutions demanding the same views of their faculty as a mandatory contractual provision necessary for employment! Are McCabe’s syntactical points being incorporated into standard Hebrew reference grammars? Is he being quoted outside of the origins ministry industry? (The best evangelical scholarship does indeed find its way into JBL and other high-caliber periodicals, gets cited in the leading commentaries, and has major impact outside a small cadre of confessional institutions. McCabe’s work has not been widely cited, though several of us have critiqued it when he has been promoted in various “creation science” materials. Yes, there will always be institutional journals routinely publishing (without significant peer review) the papers of their own faculty and that is the case with the article you mentioned. {Dr. McCabe is the Registrar at DBTS, the publisher of the journal you cited.} Dr. John Whitcomb Jr. first introduced me to McCabe when he was one of his students at Grace Theological Seminary, back in the days when I was a hard-core Young Earth Creationist “creation science” speaker and used to swing through northern Indiana now and then for my engagements. So I’m familiar with McCabe and his scholarship and have indeed noticed that he’s never taken it to an AAR/SBL conference to see how it holds up under peer-review before the leading Biblical scholars of diverse backgrounds.)

I won’t dissect your points any further because (1) I suspect that you are copy-and-pasting without having carefully engaged the technical linguistic matters involved, and (2) you are ignoring the enormous arguments against your position. (3) Moreover, I don’t think you are understanding what Bruce Waltke is saying–even though I assume you do understand that Waltke has been very negative about YEC hermeneutics in Genesis for a very very long time. Thus, I think Christy Hemphill has summarized this topic and discussion quite well.

Those of us who once staunchly defended the Young Earth Creationist position (including the six-24-hour-days, 6,000 years old creation, and global flood) eventually abandoned it as we came to realize that the scriptural evidence simply didn’t support it. Moreover, after tediously checking out YEC citations and deceptive quote-mines, we began to see a pattern of cognitive dissonance, cherry-picking, and, sadly, dishonest scholarship. As Christy explained, we got burned far too many times to casually expend more time in debunking the latest tradition-based propaganda presented as if it were peer-reviewed scholarship.

In my case, I had left the “creation science” camp long ago based on the Biblical and linguistic evidence, but didn’t begin to examine the scientific evidence related to origins until years later. So whenever I hear the bogus claim from far too many quarters that “Former YECs who affirm evolutionary biology choose to follow man’s fallible science instead of the infallible Word of God”, I add it to the list of lies I’ve compiled from creation science “apologetics”, lies I too was once guilty of telling in my sermons.

I would have found my way out of the creation science and Young Earth Creationist camp far sooner
if I hadn’t largely restricted myself to YECist literature. I rarely engaged the scholarship of those who had reached other conclusions and so my trek to the truth was a very slow process. I now look back and feel like I slowly felt my way out of the woods using my own hands feeling around in the dark, while I kept myself tightly blindfolded much of the time. (So I made very slow progress in re-examining my presuppositions and tradition-based beliefs.) That is, I rarely read the excellent emerging literature which so directly and skillfully refuted my claims. Thankfully, today that process has been made far easier because of the Internet. I would encourage you to take advantage of the access you have here to so many of us who come from theological backgrounds much like yours. You’ve probably been told that someone like me is a “theological liberal” and has abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s not the case. And if I didn’t think that my views on science were solidly Biblical, I wouldn’t affirm them. Today I prefer to pursue the truths in God’s revelations to his people, both in the scriptures and in the creation itself, rather than affirm the particular set of cherished traditions of my own church background. (For many of us, it is a matter of Biblical TEXT over TRADITION.)

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As this “Meaning of the Word ‘DAY’ in Genesis 1” thread winds down (eventually), I hope we can engage the question which naturally follows it on some new thread: If Genesis 1 does indeed demand that we affirm a creation of the world just 6,000 years ago, how do we deal with a universe absolutely saturated with evidence of billions of years? Why would our Creator plant so much deceptive evidence all around us which so blatantly contradicts a six-day creation and young earth? Is that kind of deity consistent with the YHWH ELOHIM of the Bible? Would God really do that to us?

PREVIEW: When I was a young professor, I knew several preachers who claimed that this contradiction was a test which God intentionally placed before us all, so that “God could test the faith of his people while confounding and frustrating the faithless atheist scientists.” (I know from discussions with my colleagues that they too have memories of pulpit sermons making that very claim.)

I too think that Dr. Waltke understand the intent and the grammar. So we are in agreement on that.

So, you say that Waltke “clearly understands” the intent and grammar of the passage. Yet, you deny his claim about the intent of the passage when he says that Genesis 1 is a theological and not scientific-historical account where God tells us that he created the world we observe today. So it sounds like you are picking and choosing from Waltke’s scholarship those nuggets which you believe will serve your purpose while ignoring all others. After all, here’s what you next said about Waltke:

I’d say that the reason you find Waltke’s statement hard to understand is because you aren’t grasping what he’s saying. (Have you read the entire cited work or have you only read the small excerpts appearing in Young Earth Creationist articles where Waltke is prooftexted?) There is a lot beyond comprehension in Genesis 1 because we don’t know how God went about creating everything and the text makes no attempt to explain it.

Indeed, as it has been repeatedly asked but nobody has yet explained, How can there be three “solar days” of evenings and mornings without any sun? I’ve been asking that question of literalist-creationists for years now and rarely do they fail to completely dodge it. That is just one of the various problems forced into the text of Genesis 1 when insisting upon “six consecutive 24-hour solar days.” Again, how can one comprehend literal evenings and literal mornings as portions of solar days when the sun is yet future?

However, such nouns make far more sense when seen as more loosely applied descriptive terms (convenient poetic terms) for “periods of time” rather than rigidly literal applications of days, evenings, and mornings. In fact, I would assert that Genesis 1 could have been just as easily written with YEARS instead of DAYS as the units of time—and still be consistent with Torah references to the 6+1=7 pattern—because the specific durations of the time periods are irrelevant to the theological concepts being conveyed.

To restate that, Genesis 1 could have described God’s creative role in terms of seven years just as easily as seven days. I won’t expand upon that thought here with a long tangent but I’ll mention it in preface to the question posed earlier about how Genesis 1 should be viewed in regard to the fourth commandment:

“8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Young Earth Creationists insist that only a 24-hour day would allow the six workdays followed by the one sabbath day to make sense. But that entirely misses the analogy to the Genesis 1 pattern of 6+1=7. How do we know that? Because the very same six plus one equals seven pattern appears in the Torah Law concerning Israel’s observance of six working YEARS followed by one SABBATICAL YEAR. And we see it yet again in the seven weeks-of-years aka seven sevens-of-years followed by the Year of Jubilee, the sabbatical of sabbaticals!

Thus, the six YOM followed by one sabbatical YOM of the Genesis 1 creation week is not just a Torah-basis for the fourth commandment (where the unit of time is a solar day) but it is also the basis for the Torah-commanded observance of the week-of-years and the seven-sevens-of-years.

This is a great example of the YEC tunnel-vision mentioned previously. Young Earth Creationists like to cherry-pick Exodus 20:8-11 as if its primary focus and interpretive lesson is the exact length of a YOM. So they totally ignore that the same 6+1=7 pattern of Genesis 1 is just as important to the Torah establishment of weeks of years (as well as the weeks of weeks of years) as it is to the 6+1=7 days in a conventional week of days.

Yes, all three of the Children of Israel’s calendar SEVENS (i.e., the sabbaticals/sabbaths) are based on the original SEVEN of Genesis 1, reminding us that the primary focus is on the SEVEN, not the exact duration of the word YOM itself.

It is so important that I’ll say it again but as a question: Who can doubt that the foundational basis and explanation for all three types of sabbaticals/sabbaths in the Hebrew calendar were rooted in the original SEVEN pattern in Genesis 1?

Of course, we see this phenomenon often in both OT and NT hermeneutics when important numbers (e.g., the number 12) play special symbolic roles, even though they become “detached” from their original “units”. (I won’t develop that thought here with yet another tangent but I think most readers will immediately recognize it.)

I agree entirely! It explains why many young earth creationists have grabbed at Waltke sound-bites, and praise his Hebrew skills, when they happen to fit their traditional interpretations—yet when that same exegesis of Dr Waltke leads him to abandon the young earth creationist hermeneutics of his youth, they are certain that that could only be explained by his being “predetermined to get another conclusion.” How convenient.

Do you think it impossible that young earth creationist hermeneutics could not be “predetermined to get another conclusion” because that is your cherished tradition? Indeed, if “predetermination” were always our hermeneutical guide, many of us ex-YECs would still be promoting young earth creationism!

And yes, with the insinuation that all such hermeneutical choices are due to predetermined bias, I can’t help but chuckle a bit! If YECism and “creation science” have a worldwide reputation for anything, it’s cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.

In fact, considering that young earth creationist professors at very traditional fundamentalist Christian Bible colleges and seminaries would immediately lose their jobs if they dared to reach anything but their predetermined conclusions—and the same cannot at all be said for most old earth creationist professor or evolutionary-creationist professor at their various evangelical institutions—the “predetermined bias” argument tends to provoke a smile with many of us.

It reminds me of Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed movie, which promoted that popular story of unfair bias against anti-evolution IDers and YECs—even though none of the cases profiled in the movie actually checked out as actual discrimination and violations of academic freedom. Meanwhile, I can name many colleagues and friends at YEC schools who have walked on eggshells for years (as well as those who have been fired outright in the middle of a semester) for daring to follow the scriptural and scientific evidence wherever it led. (Alas, Dr. Waltke’s story becomes pertinent yet again if we were to explore this topic relevant to “predetermined conclusions”!)

Frankly, if predetermined and predictable conclusions (and problems of bias) apply to these topics, I dare say that I saw much more of that when I was part of the young earth creationist world than what I observed while on the faculty of a taxpayer-supported, secular universe in the USA! Personally, I never found myself walking on eggshells and very very carefully choosing my exact words while teaching at a major state university like I did at a very conservative, young earth creationist seminary. No comparison. (And at the secular schools one had to be convicted of a felony in order to be ousted from the campus in the middle of a semester without extensive due process—even if one lacked tenure! Our contracts protected the professor as well as the institution. Need I explain which type of campus was the most likely to discriminate and censor? As you can imagine, Ben Stein’s movie complaining about the lack of academic freedom cracked me up —and not just the ramped up audio for the Nazi goose-steppers.)

This topic has taken me on a walk down memory lane.


Thanks for that. I will respond just briefly, just cherry picking a few things rather than all of it.

First, Waltke said what he did and there is a reason–because he knew that was what the text was indicating. You say that I “somehow miss the fact that Waltke goes on to show …” [snipped quote for sake of space]. I have to ask, How can you claim I missed that? I am the one who said it. You even acknowledge I quoted it to show Waltke’s position. So how is that I missed something that I quoted for clarity and integrity (to show the full position)? Is perhaps that part of the problem, that people on both sides (you in this case) are ignoring what is actually said and misrepresenting the other side? I know what Waltke believes now (and addressed the age of the comment in my original post about it), and my point was that he believes it in spite of what he claims the text says, not because of it. And I suggested why that might be so in my original post.

Second, the existence of 24 hour days without the sun is a common one but a confusing one. I am not sure why God needs the sun to mark 24 hour days. I have never quite understood those who think God is unable to do that. The definition of day is also not that difficult. That strikes me a bit as a sort of appeal to authority in which an authoritative voice niggles something to death in a way that overwhelms the layman and causes the layman to doubt whether he can truly know anything at all. But think about your argument in the context of eternity. In heaven there is no sun, and yet there is still the passing of time (Rev 21:21-22:5). It appears to me that the sun and moon are not necessary for the passing of time.

Third, I agree that language can be metaphorical. But surely you agree that it is not always metaphorical. So that argument really means nothing until we examine an actual text.

Fourth, regarding the change of language over time, I am not sure what you mean by the YEC “novel rules of grammar and lexicography.” It’s not the YEC who has rules. I suppose the novelty of them might depend on perspective. I have never known a YEC Hebrew scholar who does what you claim about the unchanging nature of language. In fact, the whole point of using the OT, particularly contemporary OT sections, to study the use of YOM is because language does change over time. And it is well known that language study is descriptive, not prescriptive. So we have to deal with what we have in the historical context in which is was written. We are together in refusing the YECs or anyone else to use language inconsistently, but we have to recognize that there really are not strict “rules” of it. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. When we study a text, we study its lexicography, its grammar, and its syntax in light of contemporary comparisons. That’s why BDAG is used for NT study rather than LSJ.

Fifth, I believe Dr. McCabe did present this at ETS a few years ago. It’s pretty standard Hebrew stuff applied to a particular text, and no one (to my knowledge) has challenged him on the exegesis of the text. I may simply not be aware of it. I think he was on a panel with Waltke and some others.

I am not cutting and pasting anything except the quotes from other sources. I am fairly aware of the linguistics and I think I know enough to be cautious because of what I don’t know. I try to regularly read Hebrew, which is not the same as in-depth study I know. I was in an OT PhD program with a heavy Hebrew concentration until I decided that pastoring was my calling rather than academia. So I am not unaware of these things.

To be honest, your charge that I am “ignoring the enormous arguments against my position” seems to partake of some hubris since it asserts essentially that anyone who disagrees with you is ignoring the evidence. Might there be a chance that I have considered it and rejected it? That is the actual truth. I started this journey back in the mid 90s, fresh out of college. I read Hugh Ross’ Creation and Time the year it was published. I have read a fair amount of stuff in the intervening years, though in recent years I don’t follow it much because it doesn’t seem to be moving forward. Ironically, I have never read much of Whitcomb or Morris, though I flipped through Morris’ Genesis commentary and didn’t find it helpful. I clearly am not as versed as some, and don’t pretend to be. I have tried to focus my comments here on the Hebrew text mainly.

I am not hardcore on this. I am a YEC, but I think Christians of good will can differ with me and we should do so without namecalling and attacks on people’s academic integrity or mental acumen. I don’t think either side has conclusive answers. I am not particularly troubled by that. I don’t think the “evidence for billions of years” is a test. I am more inclined to think it is actually evidence for something else that we might not currently understand. I am willing to hold that open. You appear not to. That’s fine.

I will not affirm or defend everything every YEC says. But like you, I want to pursue truth in God’s revelation in Scripture and creation appropriately. I have no desire to simply affirm the traditions of my own church background nor the traditions of science. For me, it is clearly a matter of biblical text over tradition, and that is why I have focused my comments primarily on what the text says.

Thanks for the exchange.

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To clarify, my point about understanding intent was about the meaning of the grammar and syntax.

[quote=“Mr.Molinist, post:52, topic:4219”]
Have you read the entire cited work or have you only read the small excerpts appearing in Young Earth Creationist articles where Waltke is prooftexted?)
[/quote]No, I have read the entire work. It’s an article in Crux. I have never seen that quoted anywhere else.

[quote=“Mr.Molinist, post:52, topic:4219”]
Indeed, as it has been repeatedly asked but nobody has yet explained, How can there be three “solar days” of evenings and mornings without any sun?
[/quote]I am not sure the difficulty here. You think God needs a sun and moon to mark time? How do you explain Rev 21:23-22:5 where there is no sun or moon and yet there is the passing of time. And if it works at the end, why doesn’t it work at the beginning. Why is God limited to a sun and moon to mark the passing of time?

[quote=“Mr.Molinist, post:52, topic:4219”]
I would assert that Genesis 1 could have been just as easily written with YEARS instead of DAYS as the units of time
[/quote]I think this is a great point. It could have been written another way, and in fact, if long periods of time were in view there are clearer ways to write it. And yet, it is written in a particular way that only ever means one thing.

[quote=“Mr.Molinist, post:52, topic:4219”]
Because the very same six plus one equals seven pattern appears in the Torah Law concerning Israel’s observance of six working YEARS followed by one SABBATICAL YEAR.
[/quote]Refresh my memory here, but I don’t recall that this 6+1 pattern appeals to Genesis 1 for its basis. Am I correct on that?

[quote=“Mr.Molinist, post:52, topic:4219”]
Do you think it impossible that young earth creationist hermeneutics could not be “predetermined to get another conclusion” because that is your cherished tradition?
[/quote]I think that is entirely possible. I am not sure any of us can ever be separated from our biases and become totally objective.

Your closing comments about freedom at public universities does not seem to be borne out by the news stories at least. Your experience might be different, but there have been stories of those who have faced consequences because of their views, or in fact, never hired because of them. So I am not sure what that proves. Failing to be hired because of a position will certainly limit the number of people who can be fired for holding that position. I think there is a dogma in public academia that dare not be crossed without consequences.

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Your side-stepping the issues. Again. Explain how “And the evening and the morning was the Nth YOM.” can any “literal” sense when there is not yet a sun—even while the words do make sense within a poetic structure of six verse-and-chorus units. The period from EVENING through MORNING has no “literal meaning” when there’s no sun. Most Young Earth Creationists try to play the text both ways according to how it suits them: insisting upon rigid literalism until it obviously doesn’t work, as in this instance, which is exactly what their critics have been saying all along. (Nobody assumes total literalism in the early chapters of Genesis but not everybody admits to that fact.)

Of course, let’s also not ignore the obvious external as well as internal contradictions arising from a six-24-hour day creation just 6,000 years ago: God’s revelation in his creation (also known as the scientific investigation of the universe) totally contradicts it. If God is truly the author of both the Book of Scriptures and the Book of Nature, then any time our interpretations of God’s revelations contradict, we know that our interpretations of either or both are flawed. Most Young Earth Creationism proponents claim that their interpretations of the Bible are automatically “The infallible declarations of God himself” but any contradictory information from the universe itself is “man’s fallible, sinful denials of God’s Word”. Yet, there’s no scriptural or logical reason why we should assume some minority subset of Christians possesses infallibility in interpreting scripture while everybody else has hopelessly fallible understanding of what God has revealed about the history of the universe.

Ken Ham & Co. plays this “I’m always right and you’re always wrong because I’m the one totally trusting God’s word” game on a daily basis. Yet, in reality, there are many scripture contexts where even Young Earth Creationists can’t all agree on one interpretation of the evidence from the Bible while there is zero disagreement within the academy on the interpretation of the scientific evidence gleaned from the universe itself. Do non-believers notice this bizarre contrast of confusion versus consensus that accompanies blatant ignoring of the available evidence? You bet.

As a Young Earth Creationist long ago, I became increasingly frustrated at the ambiguity of the scriptures when I demanded that it conform to my “creation science” worldview. I wanted the scriptures to answer my questions and speak to the historical and scientific concerns of my day and culture. Yet, if that were the purpose of Genesis 1 (i.e., living up to my agenda), then it obviously had failed. But if God had other purposes for Genesis 1, and I allowed the text to speak for itself, the frustrations largely disappeared.

In contrast, God’s revelation in nature does address our questions about the history of the earth. I can look at the timeline God reveals in tree rings, varves, radiometric signatures, plate tectonics, and countless other tangible histories of the earth and find a clear and consistent chronology. It’s wonderfully refreshing! (The amazing consilience of the scientific evidence for billions of years became a part of every science course I taught at both secular and Christian universities from then on. Sadly, even today the consilience of science is a term foreign to most Americans.) And just as God’s Book of Scripture provides considerable perspective in understanding God’s Book of Nature, the study of creation itself resolves many of the frustrations resulting from our trying to force Genesis 1 to address modern-day questions God never intended for it to answer.

Whether evangelicals ever reach a consensus as to poetic structures and elements in Genesis 1, the age of the earth was settled long ago. God’s revelations in creation itself involve none of the ambiguities and academic debate which will probably occupy theologians for years to come. Yet, it is the rigid literalists of the young earth creationist camp who insists upon a view of Genesis 1 which subjects it to scorn and dismissal. Indeed, anti-theists like Richard Dawkins gladly accept the traditional Young Earth Creationist interpretation of Genesis 1 (and even publically defend it) because they assume that the obvious contradictions between that text and the universe we observe today justifies ignoring the Bible (and Christians) entirely.

As a Christ-follower I have a choice: Demand that the creation pericopes of Genesis address modern day historical and scientific questions—and thereby conflict with everything God’s tells us in creation itself—or I can respect both of God’s grand revelations in scripture and creation and recognize the kinds of information each type of revelation was intended to provide. I no longer expect the Bible to answer all of my questions of science and history, just as I never expected God’s revelation in nature to define my theology and the plan of salvation. To demand that Genesis 1 describes six 24-hour days of creation 6,000 years ago tells the world that the Creator God of the Bible either can’t tell a consistent story or he filled the universe with a detailed history of countless events which never happened. By what justification can we focus entirely on God’s revelation in Genesis 1 while ignoring the vast quantities of detailed information provided in God’s revelation in the creation itself? Where/when were we told to rely on the former while ignoring the latter—especially when interpretations of Genesis among Bible-believing Christ-followers are all across the spectrum while there is no ambiguity or dispute within the science academy that all of the evidence points to billions of years? (Theist, atheist, and agnostic scientists, both the religious and the nonreligious, agree on a very old universe where where everything we observe on the earth itself developed gradually over time. Does anyone doubt that the denialists outside of the scientific academy are motivated by their theological/philosophical beliefs and not the scientific evidence? How many atheists and agnostics insist that the scientific evidence points to a young earth?)

I’m belaboring these realities because I can rarely get Young Earth Creationists to admit that their claim of honoring the Creator in their interpretations of Genesis 1 inevitably dishonors God by insisting that the universe is a massive work of deception. The “appearance of age” and “embedded age” doctrine of the creation science movement is a revival of the long discredited Omphalos Hypothesis of Philip Henry Gosse, which was soundly rejected by both Christians and non-Christians. Yes, it may be easy for some to assume that a dot of starlight in the night sky was created “already in transit”—but not for those of us who understand that each is a series of complex data packets describing a star history that never happened. Why would a God of Truth fill the sky with detailed histories of individual stars which never happened? Was a truthful creation impossible and God had no choice but to give us a universe which makes no sense, which cannot be relied upon to tell us what actually happened in the past? Why would God give us a universe which so consistently denies a six solar day creation 6,000 years ago? The Psalmist says that the “heavens are telling”, but are they telling lies?

I recanted my role in the YEC “creation science” movement because I refuse all arguments which inevitably present the Creator as a deceiver, if not an outright liar. I rejected the claim of some of my pastor friends in the 1960’s who taught that God gave us a Book of Nature which contradicted his Book of Scripture in order to test our faith in the Bible as his superior special revelation over and above his “inferior” general revelation which observe all around us.

AN ANECDOTE: As one preacher regularly preached from his pulpit in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, “We are told to live by faith and not by sight. That is why we must rely upon the clear yet mysterious teaching of scripture (??) while rejecting our allegedly clear but deceptive observations of the world around us. We reject the latter because everybody has eyes to see God’s creation—but only Spirit-filled Children of God can see the clarity of the Bible’s teachings.” That is how that Young Earth Creationist pastor friend resolved the contradictions between God’s Book of Nature and God’s Book of Scripture.

That particular IFCA minister also told me that my lack of a firm position on various disputed scriptures was evidence of my lack of spiritual maturity. He regularly confused his own defiant confidence in his conclusions (about even the most obscure minutiae of various problem passages in the Bible) with divine proof of his superior faith. So whenever I admitted my failure to completely resolve every doctrinal detail and to reach “the right interpretation” of every Bible passage, he considered it evidence of my incomplete faith and my failure to sincerely pray that God would reveal all truth to me through the Holy Spirit. As you might expect, the man also proudly claimed that he hadn’t sinned since the Hoover administration. He had a Nazarene-based IFCA background that I never quite grasped. He also told me that my failure to observe second-degree separation probably explained why the Holy Spirit had not yet given me “all of the right answers” to my questions like he had experienced.

I think he was also the first IFCA pastor to explain to me that “IFCA stands for I Fight Christians” and not intend it as a joke. He was proud of the many times he had claimed to rebuke “errant brethren” of the clergy ranks, including other IFCA pastors.

REDUX: The denialist strategy is to convince non-scientists that science is totally unreliable—while ignoring the inconsistencies, blunders, and general unreliability of today’s Young Earth Creationist “scholarship”.

Probably the biggest lie of the “creation science” movement is the claim that “Everybody deals in the same scientific data. Only the interpretation differs.” No. The scientific method provides better and better explanations of the data over time as well as incredible degrees of consensus. Indeed, origins ministry obsess on the Piltdown Man hoax of a hundred years ago (while totally ignoring the many long ago debunked creation science hoaxes which nevertheless continue to be treated as “proof” of YECist positions in various ministry publications) because they know that such well-publicized egregious delays in the scientific method are few and far between. Of course, they never admit that Piltdown Man never played even a minor role in establishing the Theory of Evolution, nor that undergraduate evolutionary biology textbooks said little about it, and that scientists published their doubts about the Piltdown find from early on and constantly complained of lack of full disclosure and open access of the evidence and field notes. (For years scientists were given only limited access for hands on peer review of the evidence.) Most of all, it was the scientific method which revealed the problems with the Piltdown evidence and “creation scientists” had nothing to do with debunking the always controversial find. (In my own research, I found that one of the authors of the definitive paper which put Piltdown Man in its proper place in the 1950’s had submitted a skeptical paper for a paleontological journal within three years of the original find. Two major world wars, a Great Depression that was far more severe in Europe than in the USA, and a lack of paleontological research funding explains the long delay between initial skepticism about Piltdown and the final definitive debunking. Of course, by the time the renowned journal article which permanently put Piltdown Man to rest was published, Piltdown Man had been largely ignored for decades, and human evolution scholarship simply continued to progress while working around it because, in the words of a leading comparative anatomist/paleontologist: Piltdown Man never made any sense and never fit into all other data relevant to human evolution. Thus, as the scientific method is sure to do in such cases, it largely ignored the Piltdown find. (I paraphrased my friend’s words because I don’t have the published statement at hand.)

The forum software is telling me that I’ve posted too high of a percentage of thread content and should “give others a chance to respond.” If I was speaking at a microphone, I could understand this careful allocation or even rationing of a scarce resource. But considering how anybody can post whatever and whenever they wish, regardless of whether I happen to post anything or not, I’ve never understood the logic of such automated warnings. I skim, digest, read, and/or ignore posts selectively according to my level of interest in what various people have to say. I assume that other participants do likewise. And because people come and go and may not read an entire thread, I often repeat myself for the benefit of newcomers and those casual observers who may be novices to particular subject matter. In such cases, I assume that those more familiar with a topic will skim and skip at will. Of course, old-timers are known for their fondness for retelling stories of the old days and for pondering and reflecting in endless soliloquy. (Or at least it may seem so. And so will it always be.)

Of course, if some participants feel obligated to read every word posted here, perhaps such rationing of participation is necessary. Yet, among most adult participants, I find that presumed problem doubtful. Nevertheless, I certainly respect the right of forum moderators to guide thread discussions any way they wish. As for me, I appreciate those who explain their positions in detail and regularly restate and summarize, because I often skim my way to the latest posts in a thread and appreciate their careful exposition, even while realizing that not everyone requires a primer’s introduction to a topic. It also helps remind me of who said what, because I sometimes confuse authors with similar ideas and positions.

Some of us write our comments with future uses of the post already in mind. And knowing that some posts will get archived and recirculated—and having been quoted-mined deceptively in the past—some of us try to make particular posts more nuanced and self-contained. Without the surrounding context of the entire thread, some posts can easily be misunderstood.

It pains me that I sometimes have to go into great detail in order to dodge the quote-miners. But my experiences in the origins ministry world have made me extremely circumspect.

With that denouement behind me, I say farewell to Biologos as my schedule will be confining me to various urgent projects. (A justifiably irritated editor has reminded me of some relevant deadlines in our contract.) So I probably won’t be posting any further on these topics. This has been a very interesting and pleasant forum and I thank you all for the stimulating conversation. If I have unintentionally overlooked a question or request, please email me at the Bible.and.Science.Forum address at Gmail or by posting at the BSF blog at If you include “Biologos:OldTimer” in the subject line or first line of text, a staffer will pass it along to me. (I also see Mr. Molinist now and then, so he usually knows where I am and can pass along a message.)

I commend and thank the Biologos staff for their good work.

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I haven’t side-stepped anything. I have already explained how “evening and morning” is possible without a sun. I have given biblical evidence for evenings and mornings without sun. If you don’t like the explanation, then suggest another one. I don’t think your explanation requires it to be a poetic structure for a variety of reasons and I don’t think it makes better sense of it.

The old question is still relevant: If God intended to communicate six, successive, 24-hour(ish) days in Hebrew, how would he do it? The answer is the way it is done in Genesis 1. That’s all that ever means. If he wanted to communicate long periods of time, there are better and more common ways to do it, and those ways are used throughout the OT beginning in Gen 2:4. That’s where I think Waltke is on to something. He recognized what the words meant, and then went on to say that they were metaphorical. At least, he wasn’t trying to dicker around with the meaning of it.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:55, topic:4219”]
If God is truly the author of both the Book of Scriptures and the Book of Nature, then any time our interpretations of God’s revelations contradict, we know that our interpretations of either or both are flawed.
[/quote]This is true, but you seem not to grasp that it might be your interpretations of nature that are flawed, or your interpretations of both. And the whole “book of nature” idea is a bit farcical. Nature isn’t a book. I understand what people are trying to say by that, but it doesn’t do justice to the topic. There is nothing propositional in nature. It cannot be bound into a codex. It is not a book.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:55, topic:4219”]
there is zero disagreement within the academy on the interpretation of the scientific evidence gleaned from the universe itself.
[/quote]I think this simply isn’t true. It may well be that there is widespread agreement on the broad outlines (which may be attributable to a number of things not entirely wholesome). But there is certainly disagreement on some issues. I think neither the YEC nor the evolutionists agree completely. I don’t find that problematic. I am not sure why you would.

[quote=“OldTimer, post:55, topic:4219”]
To demand that Genesis 1 describes six 24-hour days of creation 6,000 years ago tells the world that the Creator God of the Bible either can’t tell a consistent story or he filled the universe with a detailed history of countless events which never happened.
[/quote]Or perhaps there are other options. Again you deny a tertium quid, a major error on your part. It makes a claim to omniscience that I believe should not be made. Even the idea of 6000 is not required by YEC. You probably know that, which makes me wonder why you keep talking about 6000 years.

You have done some clever wordsmithing here but I don’t think it stands up to examination. You may be right, but it is not nearly so conclusive as you would like to think it is.

Let’s just take one example. You say,

Did you notice the switch? You switched from “data” to “explanations of the data.” And that’s exactly what the creation science movement claims: there is data and there is explanation of the data. You see, that sounds bold to call something the “biggest lie,” but it undermines it when you turn around and acknowledge the truth of it by admitting that what you really are focused on is an explanation of the data.

Honestly, I have no real use for Ken Ham. But tell me this: What data do the evolutionists have that the creationists don’t? That’s not a gotcha question. I really want to know. If “everyone deals in the same data” is a big lie, then what data does one side have the other does not.

I see you have posted a farewell. I hope you will come back and at least answer the last question. You are obviously passionate about this. It seems to me that you passion outruns the available knowledge in some areas. But nonetheless, thanks for the exchange.

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They have access to the same data. But the creationists are committed to dismissing data (they would call them “interpretations of data” or “evolutionist beliefs” but that is a rhetorical move, not an accurate representation of what they are actually rejecting) that “contradict the Bible.” They come right out and say in their material that Christians are required to reject anything that contradicts (their interpretation of ) Genesis. It ends up being a lot of data. All interpretation of data for them starts with a framework it must fit into, or it is rejected out of hand as “unbiblical.”

It’s not just scientific data that they dismiss. They also dismiss Bible verses that don’t fit in with their world views, such as 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4, which are both rejected out of hand with hand-waving claims that “these passages aren’t about creation” when in fact both passages do talk about creation, and in fact 2 Peter 3:8 is specifically a rebuttal of the claim that the Gospel message is somehow dependent on the age of the earth.

Well, all Christians do some amount hand-waving when it comes to Bible verses that don’t fit their worldview/theological system. But it is more ironic coming from people who are so confident and adamant about “taking the Bible literally” in other places.

Thanks, Christy. I thought OldTimer wasn’t being straight up there and subtly switching the wording wasn’t good.

But here’s my question for you: Don’t evolutionists do the same thing? They dismiss the data that doesn’t fit their system. And they do it for the same reason, namely, anything that doesn’t fit what we have already decided is true has to have another explanation. I think some on your side have an overly optimistic view of how the data is actually being handled. The idea that evolutionists all agree on everything (as Old Timer claimed) is not actually true. And those are the kinds of claims that really turn me off to listening. When people like OldTimer say things that are demonstrably untrue, even in pursuit of a good end, why should we listen?

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What is an example of data they have dismissed? There are things the evolutionary model does not and cannot explain, and things that are still puzzling to evolutionary biologists. But saying “I don’t see how this fits” and “I reject this as a real observation” are two different things.

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