Changing the Rules

June 8th, 2010 | 8 Comments | Bible Changing the Rules |  Facebook

The straightforward, literal reading of Genesis 1-3 has proven to be a stubborn obstacle for those who embrace the “millions and billions of years ago” myth. To get around it, some evangelicals try to change the rules of interpretation in the first chapters of Genesis. After all, if the biblical creation account wasn’t meant to be taken literally, then those who insist upon a literal, six-day creation aren’t just wrong, they are doing violence to authorial intent.

Go to the Grace to You Blog to hear John MacArthur discuss this topic.

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8 Responses to “Changing the Rules”

  1. Ben,

    Hey, thanks for posting this. I love John Macarthur. I love how he is so bold to stand for truth.

    Hey, I see you have a Trip Lee banner, my family & I love Tripp Lee’s music.

    Blessings brother,


  2. Stubo says:

    I don’t believe that a 6 x 24 hours day view was in mind when Moses wrote Genesis 1-2 (what does 3 have to do with it?)

  3. Ben Davis says:

    Sorry, are you asking what chapter three has to do with chapters one and two? Also, if Moses didn’t have six 24 hours days in mind, can you show me from Genesis 1 and 2 what he did have in mind?

  4. Stubo says:

    Hey Ben!

    Hope you’re well.

    I don’t get to talk to many people about this, so I relish the chance.

    I was asking at the start about what the garden of Eden has to do with finding out what “day” means in Genesis 1 and 2. The garden of Eden doesn’t really factor into which way we should go.

    There are a number of reasons why I think Moses didn’t have 24 hour periods in mind when writing Genesis 1 and 2, but first, I don’t think the way you will let me prove that are fair. You say “can you show me from Genesis 1 and 2 what he did have in mind?” Now I will stay mainly in the passage, but for me, the most convincing point lies in the Psalms, and I think that needs to be let to speak. So I will go outside of Genesis 1 and 2. If we used your method for everything, we wouldn’t be letting scripture harmonise with itself. I fully understand that we should start first and foremost with the passage. But if other passages shed light on the first passage, then we should also take these into account.

    My point in case would be 1 Timothy 2:4. It *clearly* says that Christ died for all men. I think it would be impossible, form the passage alone, to show how Christ didn’t die for all men (which I know you believe, and I too). However, it is not outside of the bounds of interpretting scripture to find similar phrases or uses of the word “all” by Paul. So we go over to Titus 2, and we read that the grace of God has “appeared to all men”, clearly here meaning “every single type of person”. Old men and young men, old and young women, and slaves are all grouped under the banner of “all men”, clearly meaning that Paul does not mean “every single person to have ever lived” by the phrase.

    So, why do I think that Moses means long periods of times instead of 6 x 24 hours? A few points.

    - it seems that God is commanding the Earth to bring forth trees and plants, a process that takes longer that 24 hours
    - God can work fast, but Adam can’t. Far too much happened on the last “day” (if we take day 6 as the summation of Genesis 2). Adam named *all* the animals, thought enough to be “alone”, went into a sleep, had Eve created, and then frollicked with Eve.
    - from the text, the last day didn’t finish
    - Genesis 2:4 sums up all days as “the day that the LORD created the heavens and the Earth”. 6 days = 1 day? At the very least, Moses means “age” when he says “yom” in Genesis 2:4.
    - Probably most convincing for me, Psalm 90 (a prayer of Moses), using very similar phrases regarding a man’s life. The span here is around 70-80 years, if God permits, and yet Moses says that this span is a “morning and evening”, or one day. And then, of course, there’s the phrase that for God, a thousand years are like a watch in the night (what is that? 9 hours?).

    So while I don’t think that Moses had in mind “millions of years”, I’m also sure he didn’t mean “24 hours”. I think he is meaning to communicate “stages” – the steps that God took to create the universe, Earth, and life on it. So stages, ages, epocs, whatever.

  5. Ben Davis says:

    Hey bro,

    Okay, my response :)

    1. You said that the bringing forth of trees and plants is a process that [naturally] takes longer than 24 hours. Yes, it does. And naturally, trees and plants aren’t created ex nihilo either. So, shouldn’t that change our understanding of creation too? And shouldn’t we take this same method of interpretation and apply it to Matthew 21:19? Naturally, fig trees don’t “wither at once” – but why then did the disciples marvel? Maybe “God can work fast”?

    2. Your interpretation of Genesis 2:20-21 rests on how long you think it would take to name all the animals in Eden. How many hours do you believe Adam would have needed?

    3. Sunday is not also the Sabbath day just because the creation week has been completed. Moses commanded the Israelites to work 6 literal days, and on the 7th literal day they were to rest. Why? “Because in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, because of this, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:11). The Sabbath day is holy because God blessed it. This is Moses’ interpretation – the Sabbath day was a literal 24 hour day, which the Lord blessed, and the Israelites were expected to honour it. You say that you are sure that Moses did not have 24 hours in mind. How do you think he would react if the Israelites had the same opinion?

    4. As you have already said, words have meaning in context. We also use the word “day” is the same sense, but that does not mean we can never use it literally.

    5. Psalm 90 does not say that the span of a man’s life is “morning and evening.” It says that the span of a man’s life is, “like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning [the grass] flourishes and is renewed; in the evening [the grass] fades and withers.” It is an analogy. Life is also like a mist (Jas. 4:14); like a breath (Psa. 39:5); like a flower, like a shadow (Job 14:2).

  6. Josh says:

    I simply can not accept more than 24 hour days as the time period for the days of creation.
    Whenever ‘yom’ is used in the old testament with a number (ie the first day) or with a condition (evening or morning), it always refers to a normal, 24 hour day.

    Also, nowhere else in the old testament do we apply this kind of thinking. We never say that Jonah was in the big fish for 3 million years. Or that Joshua marched around Jericho for 7 billion years. That seems ludicrous. So why apply the same thinking to Genesis.

    Gen 2:4 seems to refer to the time period, rather than the specific day (it sure doesnt make sense to say ‘in the day that’ and refer to an entire week).

    Surely there is room for supernatural development of plants and trees. Are we assuming that all the animals were born as babies and needed many years to develop fully? Was the serpent in the garden a baby serpent? Yet on only the 8th or 9th day when sin came in, a fully grown animal was killed and its skin used to cover a fully grown human being. If God created a fully grown man, no reason he cant create fully grown plants and animals too.

    I would also contest that Adam didnt need to name EVERY animal in one day. Noah didnt take 2 of every single animal onto the ark, but rather 2 of every kind. From what I have read, this was probably about 12 thousand. Good chance that I have said 12 thousand words in one day without really even trying!

  7. Stubo says:

    Hey Josh, thanks for joining.


    1. The point I was making here was that Genesis 1 seems to talk in (how to say without being misinterpretted …) unspecific terms. Let me quote a passage that demonstrates this.

    “Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.”

    So again, God commands the land to produce vegetation. And then, the land produced vegetation. I believe God does this every single day. It’s why I give thanks before meals, and remember God when I eat my food, and I enjoy the taste of food. Now while God could easily create food instantly (as Jesus easily did in John 6 and John 2), it seems to me like God is indirectly causing this growth to happen: by command and providence / decree, not directly causing the atoms to form together to form plants instantly. I base this off the fact that God commands that land to produce it, and in obedience, the land does produce it. But I see that this was my weakest point, and the land producing vegetation could just as easily mean that it instantly produced the plants. I guess this point depends on the validity of the other points.

    2. I guess that depends on how many animals there were! Now Josh, I’ve got no idea where you got the 12,000 thing from (that seems like alot?), but lets go with that for the time being (but this may be unfair, because that sounds like alot!!!). I’m working under the assumption that the Jews used Adam’s naming in their language. If that is the case, then Adam named an animal every 7 seconds, if Adam started instantly and ended at the last second. So more realistically, Adam didn’t spend 24 hours naming animals. Let’s say he did it for only half the day. That’s a naming of an individual animal every three and a half seconds. Considering that some of these are actually descriptive (such as eagles being called “flesh ripper” or something like that), Adam would even more time to look at their behaviour and then name them. We run into some problems here. Like I said before, God can work fast. He knows the stars by name (and there’s alot more than 12,000 of them!). But Adam would have taken a bit longer. Maybe 12,000 is a bit too much? But if it is 12,000, then I can confidently say that it is impossible for day 6 to have been 24 hours.

    3. The most compelling point. To be honest, the one thing that makes me pause each time this comes up is Exodus 20. God says there that he says created the heavens and the Earth in 6 “yom”, but rested on the 7th “yom. So therefore, keep the sabboth “yom”. I would not go so far as to say that this is conclusive against day-age interpretation, but it does warrant reflection. If Moses was intending to say “Keep the sabbath DAY. For God created the heavens and the Earth in six AGES, but rested in the last STAGE” (where the capitals are all “yom”), then it would seem strange that he would use the same word in such close proximity even though he meant different time periods. The only thing that would stop this, for me, being a rollover is the fact that other sabbaths exist, such as the land sabbath (every seven years) and the jubilee year (every seven times seven years). These are both called sabbath years. There seems to be a principle of “one in seven”. So we have sabbath days, and sabbath years. Both refer to the one in seven that God performed in creation.

    4. No, of course not. “Yom” is used far more often to refer to a normal day than it is an age, just as in English.

    5. You’re right: it is an analogy. But I don’t think your last point stands, in quoting other people and their usage of similies. The reason I brought this up as my most personally convincing point, is because it was by the same author (probably) and uses the exact same words. The strength of the point lied with the similarities. (will talk more later. Laptop battery is 7%!!! this was my last point I wrote out)

    Now I could be completely wrong, but I wonder if the word “day” in Psalm 90:10 is just purely “yom” in the Hebrew? If so, then our “day” is 70 years. Do you have the means of checking this? I don’t have any Bible software on my laptop, and my computer hasn’t been turned on for about a year because of evil viruses and slowness that I couldn’t put up with.

    Josh, you mentioned that “If God created a fully grown man, no reason he cant create fully grown plants and animals too”. Just to confirm, that has never been the issue. I am a supernaturalist. I believe in a supernatural God who created ex-nihilo and forms the spirit of man within him (Zecariah 12:1). The problem has never been that God *can’t* do something. Far be it from anyone to say that God can’t do whatever pleases Him! God can do whatever He wants, and He has the power to do so. Just so we’re clear :) Please don’t hear me saying “God couldn’t have created instantly even if He wanted to”.

    You said:

    Gen 2:4 seems to refer to the time period, rather than the specific day (it sure doesnt make sense to say ‘in the day that’ and refer to an entire week).”

    That’s my entire point. It doesn’t make sense if you think that “yom” has to mean 24 hours in Genesis 1 and 2. But that’s what is there. The word “yom” is there in the Hebrew, and Moses does exactly what you find confusing. So again, Moses DOES use the phrase “the day that the LORD created the Heavens and the Earth” to sum up a week. Take from that what you will.

  8. Ben Davis says:

    Hey Stubo,

    Good reply.

    1. I agree. God creates life and sustains life, but he’s also under no obligation to keep a strictly consistent method or pattern in how he accomplishes this task. That is the nature of “miracles.” Fig trees naturally (under the providence of God) eventually wither and die, but this does not rule out the possibility of a miracle in Matthew 21:19. So, we can rule out this argument. (Also compare Genesis 1:20 with John 21:6; or John 9:6-7 with Luke 18:42).

    2. This argument is based on the assumption that there were too many animals to be named in 24 hours. But unless you can offer some sort of reliable figure as to how many creatures Adam actually named, your estimate is as good as those who say otherwise. So, we can rule out this argument too, right? “Because I said so,” isn’t really good enough. :P

    3. Good observation! I hadn’t thought about the Sabbath years. But, in Exodus 20 Moses tells the Israelites to remember and keep Saturday, the last day of the week, holy. Why? Verse 11 says, because God has already blessed it and made it holy! When? Moses says, on the seventh day of the creation week! “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen. 2:3). So, in Exodus 20, God does not make the Sabbath day holy (after the pattern of the seventh age), but he commands the Israelites to remember that the last day of the week already is blessed and holy (See Exo 16:26).

    4. Definitely.

    5. No worries. :)

    Yeah, it looks like the word used in v.10 is yom. The ESV has translated it “years”, so they acknowledge it as referring to more than 24 hours, which obviously makes sense. And also, just regarding the word “day” – Moses does say, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day/age/stage/time.” Whatever your interpretation may be, there is no reason why “age” must necessarily be any longer than 24 hours. The ages or stages of creation were separated by “evening and morning.”

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