I should acknowledge that on this text, interpretations differ. And here I don’t speak of the theistic interpretation versus a naturalistic interpretation, but rather between Christians who look at the Bible as inspired, inerrant and profitable. That being said it would behoove any believer to tread lightly when considering tearing an alternate interpretation of this text as being worldly or Satanic. We can agree that these things are trueâ€”but our interpretations may be false. That being the case, here are some views, with their Scriptural support and their inherent problems.
24 Hour Days
This method states that the text is meant to be read plainly and interpreted accordingly. So when God called the dark night and the light day God formed the rotation of the Earth thus setting the morning and evening as a single, twenty four hour day. This interpretation would then show how each day (Day 1: Light, Day 2: Waters: Day 3: Earth, etc) was successive, progressive and literally twenty four hours. In support of this interpretation are God’s words in Leviticus 23:32 and Exodus 20:8-11. The first text supports the measurement of a day as shown in Genesis 1 (From evening to evening) whereas the second text God is delineating for the Israelites the importance of keeping the Sabbath. Showing His pattern He looks back at the â€œCreation Weekâ€ and says
that in six days He created the heavens and the earth and rested from all His works on the seventh day, thus men are to work six days and rest on the seventh.
This view says nothing of the creation of heavenly beings and the fall of Lucifer (did he fall in Hour three of Day One?). Also this view doesn’t vibe with current scientific data (several thousand years versus millions of years). This camp may say that God created with appearance of age (and use the full grown Adam as support) but this winds up raising questions about God’s genuineness in revelation via Creation.
The Gap TheoryThis interpretation is rooted in the ambiguity of the original language and in the understanding that Genesis 1:2 geocentric. So that, Genesis 1:1 is concerned with the original creation and Genesis 1:2 is concerned with the reconstruction of a post-judgment creation. The time between verse 1 and verse 2 is completely indeterminate (could be millions of years) and in this time, some Gap Theorists place dinosaurs and others merely place the angelic beings. The reading of Gen 1:2 is seen as â€œThe world became formless and voidâ€ as in Gen 19:26 where Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. Using textual evidence they would say that God did not create the world in a condition of formlessness and chaos (Isaiah 45:18). The world, they would say, became that way likely after the fall of Lucifer (Isa 14:12-14) thus resulting in a cataclysmic judgment and now, God’s reconstruction.
As for the days, this view can take them as 24-hour days (there are mixtures of course) but in each case, it’s more a reconstructive revelation (making with material) instead of an outright revelation (creation ex nihilo). In the evening things are dark and obscured and in the morning things are sharp and clear, so then when there is light, there has always been light (being the nature of the Godhead) but on Earth light now shines. As an aside, this view may find some support in scientific data.
Ken Hamm offers a false dilemma that places this view as compromising with the devil (Evolutionists) and states that this is a tearing of the Biblical record. He would say that this view adds indeterminate years of death before Adam’s sin. Another question regarding this interpretation is that it demands a reading of the text that forces the words to become adjectivesinstead of nouns. Also, darkness isn’t of itself evil although in Scripture it is often ascribed to evil. God Himself comes puts Abraham in a deep sleep with darkness and horror (Gen 15:12).
This interpretation holds that each day is an indeterminate amount of time where God states the original creative word: (ie: Let there be an expanse) and as time progresses during that â€œdayâ€ the creative word is brought into practical existence. Support for this is found in Psalms 90:4
which use the same word for day as is used here. A day to God, says the text, is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. So these days could be anything from 24 hours, through 1,000 years and as far as need be for God to decide His creative command to be completed. Evening and Morning in this interpretation would point towards what those concepts imply. Obscurity (Evening) would imply chaos and Definition (morning) would imply order so things are going from â€œeveningâ€ to â€œmorningâ€ one day. There may be support here found in the scientific data.
Some have proposed an oversimplification that states that this reading is false because it would place plants (day three) existing for thousands of years without a sun. I would suggest that the claimant is ignoring the presence of light previous to the creation/recreation/revelation of the sun and thus is suppressing the information that would support photosynthesis sans heavenly body. Be that as it may, there is also the problem of a faulty hermeneutic that demands lifting language from a poetic passage to interpret a narrative passage thus putting every reading of â€œyomâ€ to question.
This interpretation looks at the text with the understanding that it is not literally true but it reveals a literary truth. The main point of the passage would be the very real truth that God implemented creation by His words. So when God creates Light on day One and then makes Lights on day 4 we see a literary function being implemented to show Creation and Fullness. Day
Two would consist of Waters and they separated into Ocean and Skies and Day Five would consist of those elements being filled (with sea creatures and birds). Day Three would consist of waters gathered into Seas and the Land being revealed whereas Day six consists of these elements being filled. Day One shows God moving Day Seven shows God resting. This view isn’t claiming to make a scientific statement and shows that the purpose of the text is not to make a scientific statement either. It shows that God started the creative work, he finished it and it was perfect.
Against this view would be that it is no surprise that the text uses a literary methodology to proclaim truth. Indeed, the Messianic Psalms use a poetic device, chiastic structure and more to reveal literal truth as accomplish by the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the Scriptures literary styles are used to even proclaim history (as in the blessing of Jacob to his 12 sons) why in Genesis 1 would we abrogate it to a purely literary function without questioning what is literally accomplished.
This interpretation looks at the text literally but with the understanding that there is a literary ambiguity to certain terms. For instance the word â€œdayâ€ (yom) is used throughout the text but in Gen 2:4 the word â€œdayâ€ (yom) is used again to describe the entire week in Gen 2:4. Genesis 1:2, 3 show an indeterminate amount of time regarding the darkness and then the breaking of light: from this we see the naming of the darkness â€œnightâ€ and the light â€œdayâ€.
The problem here is that you really don’t know how long that first day was. Evening (indeterminate amount of darkness)â€”creative wordâ€”labeling of it as â€œDayâ€ (effectively making this morning)â€”One Day when the Morning becomes Evening again. Also there is no question about the seventh day ever ending: God rested from His creative work for a long time (if not forever. Some have suggested that God started creating again during the New Creation). With this all in mind, the model of Exodus 20 would tell a person that he is to work six days but on the seventh day he could retire for either a few thousand years orfor all eternity. These days, would say this interpretation could be a literal24 hour day (acknowledging ambiguity) but they are days separated with time.
There is no indefinite article in Hebrew, although there is a definite article (ie: no such thing as A day but there is THE day. The indefinite article is shown by the absence of the definite article. This being the case, the days of Genesis 1 are oddly numbered: Day One or A Day One, Day Two or A Second Day et. al. until THE sixth day and THE seventh day. These questions regarding the text leave enough ambiguity and complexity to reveal a very careful text and thus a necessarily careful understanding.
Against this interpretation is that the definite article in the Hebrew Text is often used to clarify importance of the referent. So when Genesis 1 speaks of The Sixth Day it refers to it as such because it is an important day. Also, this method could be abused and abrogate literal sayings to literary functionsâ€”potentially suffering from the same criticisms as theLiterary Days.
Next we’ll consider the implications of these interpretations. (FYI:This overview of interpretations is no way exhaustive. I’m pretty much clumping variations under these headers with the understanding that these views are held by Christians who believe the Word of God is inspired and inerrant).