The "Days" of the Creation Week

Based on a Dr. David Livingston Lecture.

The following is based on a Dr Livingston lecture but with additional theological input contributed by Robin A. Brace.

There has been much confusion about the 'Days of Creation' of Genesis. One may find several opinions among Christians and some now say that a Christian can adopt any of these opinions and remain true to the Faith, but is that really true? Do all of these opinions really concur with the biblical revelation? Or are certain such opinions actually expressions of doubt about Holy Scripture?
Okay, so what are the "DAYS"? And how long were they?

Firstly, here are some dates which have been suggested for Creation:

  •  Septuagint     5270 BC
  •  Jewish           3760 BC
  •  Josephus       5555 BC
  •  Luther           3961 BC
  •  Kepler          3993 BC
  •  Ussher          4004 BC

Now, Some Interpretations of the Meaning of "Days"

  1. Revelational day: God revealed to Moses how He He created the world over 6 visionary days, or during a 6 day period.
  2. Long periods of time -- a geological age -- a "day-age."
  3. Literal days (24 hours), separated by long ages.
  4. Literal days (24 hours) in a literal account.

See below for more details...

Theories of the Origin of the Universe Which Christians Have Sometimes Held

Theistic Evolution:

God used natural (evolutionary) processes to bring all things into existence.

The 'days' of Genesis only poetic/allegorical, something for all ages and all cultures of all time. Only the WHO and WHY are important. While the concept of God creating Man 'From the dust of the ground' might seem to accomodate this belief, it seems too far removed from what the text actually says. If great ages were involved, would not the regular use of 'day' be misleading? According to this theory, there were earlier 'man-like' creatures, closer to apes and the product of evolution, which did not have access to God; 'Adam' became a purely symbolic - not literal - figure of the first man to have access to God.
None of this seems to fit with the heavily literalistic feeling of the Genesis account.

Day-Age Theory:

Each "day" of the creation week was actually a long (geological) period of time.

Obviously such an interpretation seriously increases the figurative/allegorical sense and would immediately make much of the Genesis account completely unreliable. How did the vegetation of 'the third day' survive for possibly a great age before the sunshine of 'the fourth day'?
Again, the main problem is the literalistic sense of the Genesis account.

Day-Age Variant:
Creation indeed took just 6x24 hour days. But there were enormous periods of time between the 'days.'

But the Genesis account is strongly consecutive with no space for gaps between the 'days' nor in any other sense. The questions over honesty increase; Why would God purposely mislead and confuse by making the account appear so literalistic? Is this not the same God who inspired, 'Don't bear false witness...'?

Gap Theory:
God created heaven and earth which continued for an undetermined length of time, maybe millions of years (Genesis 1:1). He destroyed it during a "gap" between verses 1 and 2. Then, He recreated it from verse 2, in six 24 hour days. This theory was developed by J.N. Darby and then popularized (mainly in the U.S.) by C. I. Scofield and his Scofield Reference Bible. it has lost much support in recent years.

According to the usual version of this, the rebellion of the angels took place between 'day one' and 'day two,' and God destroyed the original creation. Many 'gappists' believe that the dinosaurs were destroyed at the same time. So the following 'days' of creation were actually the days of a re-creation.
The main problem here is that the text gives no indication of a break between these verses whatsoever, it is an artificial insertion against the run of the Hebrew. 'Gappists' have also made erroneous claims about the meaning of 'tohu' and bohu' to help support their claim, a claim which was clearly a 'sell-out' in order to accommodate evolution. They effectively filed evolution away between verses one and two in order to avoid dealing with it. Only a very few continue to accept this theory; typically, these people often claim that Darwin was "misunderstood," but this is a huge mistake. Atheistic Darwinism is a most potent enemy of the Christian Faith.

Framework Hypothesis:
Genesis 1-11 is not literal but thematic, being composed of various themes ("creation," "fall," "reconciliation," etc.) which are simply introduced here, but then recur throughout Scripture. Or, one might say that it is only "poetic," "allegorical,", or possibly "supra-historical." According to this theory, nothing here should be seen as having literally occurred within human history.

Comes straight out of liberal theology, later being further 'fine-tuned' by the existentialist theology of the Neo-Orthodox theologians. The majority of these people did not even believe that the Passion of Christ occurred in human history, but that it was a 'supra-historical' event.

Please notice that all the above try to reconcile vast stretches of time with what appears to be a few thousand years in the Bible. A common cliché is, "The Bible does not give the date of the earth's origin."

Literal days of creation with a Young Earth/Universe, and a Universal Flood:
God created the earth and universe miraculously and mature. Great catastrophes have occurred during the earth's history which account for all the geological deposits. The greatest of these was Noah's Flood which was universal.
The Flood and it's aftermath catastrophes created many layers of sediment and account for much of the geology with its fossils.

Fits the Biblical account perfectly.

Important Factors in Determining the Length of Days

  1. The use of the phrase "evening and morning" is the Hebrew definition of a 24 hour day and is in current use today to mean the same thing. It is used this way more than 100 times in the Old Testament (Tanach) and each time it always means a 24 hour day. If the writer wanted to convey the impression of 6 LITERAL days, how else would he have worded it? Would he word it this way if he really meant "long ages"? Long ages do not have evenings and mornings.
  2. Ordinal numbers are used in reference to the days: first, second, third, etc. Ordinal numbers are always used to indicate 24 hour days more than 200 times in the Old Testament and over 100 times in the New Testament. Even today that is how the days of the week are named in Hebrew.
  3. In Hebrew, 95% of the time the word yom normally means a 24 hour day. (See a Hebrew lexicon for the meaning of yom). Yom is used 1200 times to mean "day" in Scripture, and 700 times in its plural form to mean "days". Only 5% of the time (about 65 times) is yom used to indicate an indefinite period of time or an event (as in, for example, the "day of the Lord"). Normally, when it is used to refer to something besides a literal 24 hour day, there is usually some indication, such as yom rab, which means a "long time". Another word, olam, is used when "ages" or "aeons" of time are meant.
  4. The Day of Rest (the 7th day) must have been literal. In Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments equate a 7 day week with the creation week. In Exodus 31:12-17, keeping the Sabbath is to be a sign of a witness to God's creation of the world.

Objections to a Literal Day Interpretation

  1. "II Peter 3:18 states that 'one day equals 1000 years'." This can go both ways -- what SEEMS like 1000 years can equal only a day. [It is interesting to note, during New Testament times, many Jewish scholars felt that the 24 hour days in Creation were representative of the 1000 year periods of the ages of man. Even today the rabbis speak of there being six thousand years given to man and then Messiah will come.]
  2. "Too much happened on the 6th day for it to be only 24 hours -- first Adam was made, then all of the animals, then they were named, then Adam was lonely, then Eve was made -- all in one day?" [If all the animals were in Adam's presence and brought before him for the naming, it would only take a few hours for him to name them. We should also bear in mind that the animal kinds were undoubtedly simpler than today, with the various creatures having the genetic information for later variations. Possibly only one cat of the cat family, for example.]
  3. "A long day-age (long periods of time) fits the geological scheme better." [This perception of the lengthy "geological scheme" ignores the Flood and it's cataclysmic destruction -- ages are not needed. Too much credit is being given to geologists.]

The belief that yom represents long ages would also seem to allow for death BEFORE Adam even sinned in the Garden of Eden - this would seriously undermine the biblical teaching. Adam's age is stated in Scripture; belief in ages for creation days does not add up.


Attempts to stretch time appear to be an effort to accomodate an evolutionary philosophy and worldview. From a purely biblical pespective on an apparently day-by-day literal account, the time sequence should not be altered.

Again, thanks to Dr Livingston for the basic idea of this chart, and for some of the information.
UK Apologetics, 2009.