What does "day" mean in Genesis?

Hi, everyone! I’m curious to know what everyone’s take is on what God considers “days” to Him. In Genesis, it states God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh. Scientists have estimated the earth to be 4.5 billion years. Some scientists have also estimated that, according the The Bible, the earth is 6,000 years old, therefore, leading them to believe The Bible is false. I have heard some say they believe a day to God is millions of years. I have also heard some say they believe the Earth is actually 6,000 years old. Thoughts?

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I would recommend to you this lecture. This, of course, is a complex are of study as there is more than one word here interpreted as day. Some of them are definite and some of them are indefinite and leads to ambiguity in interpretation. This is why people can read the same passage and come to different conclusions. This lecture should help you on your journey!

It is based on this book of his:

https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Days-That-Divide-World/dp/0310492173/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=seven+days+that+divide+the+world&qid=1579286055&sr=8-2

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@OJMCKEE Great question :slight_smile: As a teenager, I was a young earth creationists and very adamant about it. I followed AiG and thought there was no other way to interpret Genesis 1. But as I read more I began to realize that is simply not true. There are multiple legitimate ways to read Genesis 1.

Before you can discuss the meaning of the word day, you have to first try to understand the purpose and genre of Genesis 1. The word day is used in context, so the way you approach the chapter as a whole will determine how you interpret it.

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The Hebrew word for “day” is ambiguous. It can range from 1,000 years to the “light of the day” (typically 12 hours). When It says in Genesis that God rested on the seventh day, it is saying God was done creating new things for the time being. Everything was “at rest” during this period. It does not say it was 24 hours. You can read it that way but it doesn’t have to be 24 hours. It could be 24 hours or 1,000 years, we really don’t know for sure.

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If you’d like some in depth detail about this sort of thing, there’s a gentleman named Hugh Ross who has addressed this in detail. There’s some info at his wiki, but he also has several good books to look into.

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To be honest, this is an unresolved question in my mind. Like Sean, I was once an ardent (and even zealous) six-day creationist, but as I went through college, the amount of information I learned that six-day creationists had never told me piled up to the point that I started to have serious doubts. (I should clarify, by the way, that I attended a Christian college, and none of the biology professors, most of whom I know well enough to confirm that they are serious, orthodox Christians, held a literal interpretation of Genesis, though many had been raised under such a view.)

For one thing, I learned that for much of the history of the church (i.e. prior to the Reformation), it was normal for people to read the Bible allegorically rather than (or in addition to) historically; just because something in the Bible might not be literally true did not mean it wasn’t theologically significant. Origen, one of the early Church’s most brilliant theologians, wrote the following on the Genesis account of creation in On the First Principles, Book IV:

It was not only, however, with the (Scriptures composed) before the advent (of Christ) that the Spirit thus dealt; but as being the same Spirit, and (proceeding) from the one, He did the same thing both with the evangelists and the apostles — as even these do not contain through­out a pure history of events, which are in­terwoven indeed according to the letter, but which did not actually occur. Nor even do the law and the commandments wholly convey what is agreeable to reason. For who that has understanding will sup­pose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, ex­isted without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indi­cate certain mysteries , the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally. Cain also, when going forth from the presence of God, certainly appears to thoughtful men as likely to lead the reader to inquire what is the presence of God, and what is the meaning of going out from Him. And what need is there to say more, since those who are not altogether blind can collect countless instances of a similar kind recorded as having occurred, but which did not literally take place? Nay, the Gospels themselves are filled with the same kind of narratives; e.g., the devil leading Jesus up into a high moun­tain, in order to show him from thence the kingdoms of the whole world, and the glory of them. For who is there among those who do not read such accounts carelessly, that would not condemn those who think that with the eye of the body­— which requires a lofty height in order that the parts lying (immediately) under and adjacent may be seen — the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians, and Parthians, were beheld, and the manner in which their princes are glorified among men? And the attentive reader may no­tice in the Gospels innumerable other pas­sages like these, so that he will be convinced that in the histories that are literally re­corded, circumstances that did not occur are inserted.

Furthermore, while I was resistant for the longest time to the suggestion that Genesis 1 and 2 present different accounts of creation originally written by different authors, my mindset shifted when I began comparing the texts using original language study tools. In particular, I noticed that the word yôm, which is used throughout the first chapter to describe each of the seven days, is used in Genesis 2:4 to describe the “day” that God created heaven and earth; the text suddenly jumps from talking about heaven and earth being created in seven “days” to being created in one “day.” While I have heard many Young Earth Creationists argue that a yôm is a literal, twenty-four hour day, I have yet to hear an argument that satisfactorily resolves this discrepancy in a way that maintains a literal understanding of both texts.

There were a number of other factors that affected my understanding of the age of the earth (much of which relate to my studies in biology and biochemistry), but I won’t go into those now. Let’s just say that my current position is that whether the first chapters of Genesis should be taken as literal history or not, the primary purpose of the text is to explain mankind’s relationships (with God, with the world, and with other human beings), why these relationships are so out of order (mankind willfully rejected God’s rule), and how God responds (bringing justice mixed with mercy). Beyond that, I don’t know that there’s any interpretation of Genesis that make perfect sense of all the available information, and making it a dividing issue within the Church only leads to trouble.

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Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 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. For in 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. Exodus 20:8-11

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. Exodus 31:15-17

This, to me, feels like day is more of a typical 24 hour day.

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