6 yoms of creation

thePsalmist on March 5th, 2009

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)

These words have sparked endless and often needless arguments, not just between theists (those who believe in God) and atheists (those who don’t), but even amongst different generations of Christians. You might wonder how Christians manage to argue over the issue of whether God created the heavens and the earth or not… but believe me they do!

My belief is that the controversy has been wholly pointless and comes down to a misunderstanding over three little letters, well actually in the original hebrew it was just 2 little letters! It’s amazing just how many books can be written as a result of 2 little letters being misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The opening chapter of the Bible tells the story of how God made everything. It goes something like this:

Gen 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came, and then morning: the first day.

The Hebrew word for ‘day’ is yom. Throughout the Old Testament you see the same word used in a multitude of ways. In some places a ‘day’ or ‘yom’ as it is in the original Hebrew, is translated as ‘age’, in other places ‘years’ in other places ‘day’ in the sense of a 24 hour period.

At some point in the history of english translations, many hundreds of years ago, the translators came to this first section of the Bible and decided the best way to translate ‘yom’ was with the word ‘day’. It fitted in with the pattern of there being six days of creation and one day of rest making up one full week.

The only problem with this, for those of us who want to read God’s word literally, is that it just doesn’t work very well. The first hurdle to cross is that you don’t even have a sun for the first three days. It’s not until day four that God creates the great lights in the sky to govern the seasons:

Gen 1:14-19 14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs  for festivals and for days and years.  15 They will be lights in the expanse of the sky to provide light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to have dominion over the day and the lesser light to have dominion over the night—as well as the stars.  17 God placed them in the expanse of the sky to provide light on the earth, 18 to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.  And God saw that it was good. 19 Evening came, and then morning: the fourth day.

So on day 4 we get the sun in the sky, which then begs the question “Just what was the writer talking about when he talks about “there was evening and there was morning, the first day”? By what means were evening and morning determined if there was no sun rising and setting in the sky? It would have been dark all the time, and there was no tradition to go on because at this point in earths history there had never been a sun to rise and set.

My belief is that in reading the Genesis account literally and taking it word for word we can not translate ‘yom’ as a 24-hour day. I think it is far better to translate it as ‘age’ for there is no means by which to measure time, and I think the Bible itself is making that clear for us.

But if you remove this issue of the 24 hour time periods, then you also in one sweep of the pen remove the last 150 years of argument over whether faith or science is correct about the creation of the word. You remove all the arguments about a short creationist account of creation, or a long evolutionary account of creation.

Well in truth, you don’t remove all the arguments against an eveolutionary account, as I’ll show in a later blog post about the difference between evolution between the species and evolution within a species. But that’s for another day.

For now, I just want to affirm that my God, the creator of the Universe is more than capable of creation the universe in 6 earth seconds, or 6 fractions of one second if He so desired. As it happens, the account He’s given us of His creation speaks to me of a God who works outside of time and through six aeons or ages, in a clearly defined pattern he carefully sculpts and brings into being everything we now see around us (and plenty that we have yet to discover even). He is a great God and beyond our understanding. But He is a God of love, whose greatest work was not just to create all this, but in so doing, to show His love for us.

2 Responses to “6 yoms of creation”

  1. If Yom is an “age” then how does that help explain the fact that the sun wasn’t created until the 4th “day/age”. No matter how long you determine a day/age to be – it doesn’t explain what the light was that was separated from darkness on day/age 1 if it wasn’t the sun. Exodus 20’s commandment on remembering the Sabbath day basis its argument on God resting on the 7th day to the fact that He made the Universe in 7 days. Whilst I would argue that spiritually speaking we are now in a spiritual “age” of rest because our rest is in Jesus’ completed work on the cross (Hebrews 3/4) in the days of Exodus 20 they had no such revelation. So why would THEY understand 7 days of creation as being literal days but we should not? Have we become so clever now that God can now give us the real picture, which He couldn’t do in the past or did they in the past just reason “just as God made the world in 6 ages and then rested on 1 so we should work for 6 days and rest on one”. Historically I don’t think we know why we have 7 days in a week. Exodus 20 suggests it is linked with the act of creation. If we argue that God revealed things according to the religious/scientific understanding of the day rather than present them with the truth then we should remember that poetically the stars are said to speak (e.g. Psalm 19) but now scientifically we know that stars resonate with a sound pulse (see http://www.psalm19records.com/psalm19.html for some good links). Also Job 26:7 says that God hangs the world on nothing which describes gravitational forces that were not understood in Job’s days and yet it is still stated in Scripture. So there are some scientific revelations that appear in the poetical side of the Bible way before clever man discovered them.

  2. Absolutely right, on nearly all counts!

    The issue with the sun is this… When the universe was created the only light in the universe was not just our Sun! God made photons! According the most widely accepted understanding of what happened in the first stages of the universes development there was a thing called the “quantum soup” which was too dense for photons to move freely in. This was the dark beginning of the universe. As the initial universe expanded though the photons were free to move and interact with the developing chemical ingredients of the universe, and thus develop things further. It is this release of the photons which I believe is referred to when Genesis talks initially about light and darkness. The sun comes later as a result of all that – or more precisely, as a result of God commanding it into being.

    The name of this blog is for the very reason you point out in Psalm19. When I was studying astrophysics at university we had a visiting professor come and lecture us one day on the studies he was conducting into the harmonic oscillations in the suns surface. At one point, as he played us the noise they’d picked up and showed us the patterns of waves travelling through the sun he said “It’s as if the sun is singing to us!”. From then on psalm19 has been my favourite Psalm!

    It is not that I think science is better than the Bible. I hope you don’t think that from my post. But I do think that we as evangelicals have too often not thought through the ‘why’ behind what we think, too scared perhaps to read the Bible for what it actually says.

    The issue about the 7 day week is for me not a very strong argument. For it to be a strong argument then I think God would have to work in the same time frame as us. He of course is outside of time. Creation is a God-centric thing, not a man-centric thing, in my opinion. It relies upon and is governed by God, not us. So the pattern of creation is in accordance with who God is. Days have no meaning for him at all as far as I can see. They are nothing to him. Later on though, for the humanity He has made, it is right and good that we follow the same pattern that God worked to and created us for, but now within the limitations within which we were made, and that for us is a very different thing than it was for for God – so while he had seven YOMs of creation, we have the same pattern, but within our limits, thus seven days in the week.

    As I said though, more than our understanding scientifically is our faith in a God who is above and beyond all these thoughts. It would be nothing for Him to do it all in 1 nanosecond, or to take 1 trillion aeons. For Him it’s all the same. HE is great and awesome and able to do immeasureably more than we can understand or imagine.


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