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by Chad Uretsky

Does 'With God a Day is a thousand years' mean that Genesis isn't literally true?

The fallacy here, which is common to old-earth creationists, is making a simile literal. The verses cited both state that a thousand years is "as" (like) a day to the Lord (or in the Lord's eyes), not that a day is literally a thousand years, or vice versa. The intent of the authors is clearly to show that time is incidental to God, since He transcends time, and to show

Looking at the 2 Peter passage in context we find:


3...there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance...

2 Pet. 3:3-9 (KJV)

As can be seen, what Peter says is in response to those who would scoff about the promise of the Lord's coming, and speaks of God's patience, comparing how time appears to God and how time appears to man. Since God transcends time and has existed eternally, a thousand years is a mere pittance to God, seeming as a day might to a man, or even, as the writer of Psalm 90 expounds, as a "watch in the night." Psalm 90 further eliminates the possibility of a literal understanding of this simile, as to take it to literally mean a thousand years is a day to God makes it self-contradictory, since it also compares a thousand years to a four-hour period (a "watch in the night"). If it is interpreted literally, one would have to ask whether the Psalmist meant that a thousand years is four hours to God, or a thousand years is a day to God. However, even in Psalm 90, it is clear that God's transcendence of time is being described, stating that a thousand years past is like yesterday to God.

Genesis, Creation, and the Hebrew Word "Yom"
Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, in their book When Critics Ask intimate the two possibilities regarding the creation account (old earth, and new earth) in the following manner:


PROBLEM: The bible says that God created the world in six days (Ex. 20:11). But modern science declares that it took billions of years. Both cannot be true.
SOLUTION: There are basically two ways to reconcile this difficulty. First some scholars argue that modern science is wrong. They insist that the universe is only thousands of years old and that God created everything in six literal 24-hour days (= 144 hours)...[typical evidences for young earth are then given]...

Other Bible scholars claim that the universe could be billions of years old without sacrificing a literal understanding of Genesis 1 and 2...[typical evidence for old earth are then given]...

Conclusion: There is no demonstrated contradiction of fact between Genesis 1 and science. There is only a conflict of interpretation. Either, most modern scientists are wrong in insisting the world is billions of years old, or else some Bible interpreters are wrong in insisting on only 144 hours of creation some several thousand years before Christ with no gaps allowing millions of years. But, in either case it is not a question of inspiration of Scripture, but of the interpretation of Scripture (and of the scientific data).

Geisler, Norman and Howe, Thomas, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, fourth printing (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 32-33, emphases in original

Geisler and Nix are cited here as an example of how most scholars divide the two camps, and as an example of how many scholars avoid taking a stand on the matter. Ron Rhodes, in The Complete Book of Bible Answers, breaks down the old-earth beliefs into three camps: those who believe that the "days" in creation were days during which God revealed the creation events to Moses, those who believe each day represents an age, and those who believe each of the days was a literal day, but these days were separated by large gaps in time (these are given as individual arguments rather than camps by Geisler and Howe). Unlike Geisler and Howe, however, Rhodes takes a stand:


4. Still other theologians believe the days of Genesis are literal solar days with no time gap between them. This is my view.

Rhodes, Ron, The Complete Book of Bible Answers: Answering the Tough Questions (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), p. 42

The reason for quoting Rhodes is not just that I agree with him, but aside from listing a couple of typical examples of young-earth arguments, he adds this:


Moreover, Hebrew scholars tell us that whenever a number is used with the Hebrew word for day (yom), it always refers to a literal solar day (no exceptions). Since God is said to have created the universe in six days, literal solar days must be meant.

ibid, p. 42, emphasis in original

This statement will be discussed further, since it appears decisive, but it would be wise to look at other arguments and evidences as well.

Evening and Morning
With each of the days of creation, Scripture records that "there was evening and there was morning." This cycle begins on the first day, when God created the light. God saw the light, that it was good, and He separated it from the darkness. He called the light, "day," and the darkness He called "night." It is at this point the phrase, "and there was evening and there was morning" first appears, and this is said to be the first day. This phrase accompanies each of the days of creation, as the author numbers the days by the evening and morning. This is the first reason for believing that this is a literal solar day, the "day" mentioned is based on the setting and rising of the sun.

The old-earth adherent may argue at this point that these days could easily have been longer than 24 hours; as a matter of fact, most will argue that this is precisely the case, that these "days" are actually "ages." In order to argue this, one either needs to dismiss the idea that the "days" spoken of in Genesis are based on the solar cycle, or one must argue that the rotation of the earth at the time of creation was much slower than it is now, taking much longer to make one revolution (perhaps a thousand years per revolution), and thus making a "solar day" last much longer than 24 hours.

The first objection, that the days are not based on a solar cycle, requires ignoring Scripture's direct statement that the day was measured by an evening and a morning. Since Scripture is neither to be ignored nor dismissed, this option is not viable.

The second argument, while more viable, is hypocritical at best. For instance, old-earth adherents will deny the possibility that the speed of light has changed over time, or that the rate of decay of radioactive isotopes may have changed (for examples, see the site on isochron dating listed above, as well as, yet they would have us believe in day-ages, which, whether they realize it or not, requires us to believe that the rate of rotation of the earth has undergone significant changes. Of course, there is no evidence that the rate of the earth's rotation has undergone any change over time. Thus, this argument falls flat.

Adam's Age vs. the Day-Age
If the old earth postulation is to be followed, and a day-age is assumed as the meaning of "day" in Genesis, then it would be rational to assume equivalent or close to equivalent lengths for each of the day-ages. If not, then Genesis itself really makes no sense, as it would be illogical to use identical terms ("and there was evening, and there was morning, the nth day") and have inconsistent meanings. So, if we assume these days to be long periods of time (ages), long enough to support the old-earth argument that the earth is millions of years old (or older), then each day-age would have to be millions of years (not one thousand years, as many old-earth adherents assert, based on Ps. 90 and 2 Pet.).


Taking into consideration that a day is millions of years, we would have God creating Adam during the sixth million-year period. Then, after giving the humans instruction and dominion, God rests for the seventh million-year period. Assuming that Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the sixth day-age, Adam dies about 930 years into the seventh day-age. Based on geneaologies and history, that would mean that the seventh day-age is still in progress. Unfortunately, the seventh day of Genesis is spoken of in past tense throughout the rest of Scripture, most notably, in Ex. 20:11, where we are told God "rested" (past tense) on the seventh day. Therefore, the seventh day must have come to an end already, implying that, even if we accept the concept of the day-age throughout Genesis chapter 1, a day-age must be less than approximately 2000 years.


So, let's try this again, with the concept of the thousand-year day-age (based on the misinterpretation of Ps. 90 and 2 Pet.). Adam is created at the end of the sixth day-age, and dies 930 years into the seventh day-age. This would mean the seventh day-age would end at a time when Seth was approximately 870 years old. T

So the main points standing against the day-age theory are essentially as follows:

1.      It seems relatively odd that the beginning and end of each of the days is explicitly mentioned for the first six days, yet the seventh day would be left completely open-ended, without a mention of the closing, even at the future time when it would end. It is more likely that the seventh day is mentioned in summary, beginning and end intended, with the events recorded following the "seventh day" statement occurring after the seventh day;

2.      With the things God does between the end of the sixth day and the time Adam dies, it would appear that God is "working," though it is perhaps possible to explain the rest as rest from the process of creation, and not work in general;

3.      It does not make sense, in a time that would not have such "science" and consideration as to assert the age of the earth in millions of years, to use language in such a way as to obscure the actual meaning (i.e. indicating more than a literal solar day with the use of the word "day" without giving any implication that such meaning is intended), especially in light of the normal, consistent, unwavering use of the same grammatical constructs;

4.      To use the word "day" in a manner other than that which is commonly understood (i.e. literal solar days) without indication would be incoherent.

Yom Used Together with Numerals in the Hebrew Old Testament
The last two points of the previous section lead back to what Ron Rhodes is quoted as stating regarding use of the Hebrew word yom. Is Rhodes incorrect about yom used with a numeral onl meaning a 24-hour period? In regard to analyzing the Hebrew grammar of Genesis 1 and 2, I will defer to citations from a couple of other web sites:


3] There is also an argument from numerical prefix. Genesis 1 attaches a numeral to each of the creation days: first, second, third, etc. Moses affixes numerical adjectives to 'yom' 119 times in his writings. These always signify literal days, as in circumcision on the "eighth day" (Lev. 12:3; cp. Num. 33:38). The same holds true for the 357 times numerical adjectives qualify 'yom' outside the Pentateuch. (Hos. 6:2 is no counter example. It either refers to the certainty of Israel's national resurrection, using the literal time period at which a body begins to decompose [Jn. 11:39] to underscore their hope. Or it may be alluding to Christ's resurrection on the third day as Israel's hope [1 Cor 15:4].) As Gerhard Hasel observes," This triple interlocking connection of singular usage, joined by a numeral, and the temporal definition of 'evening and morning,' keeps the creation 'day' the same throughout the creation account. It also reveals that time is conceived as linear and events occur within it successively. To depart from the numerical, consecutive linkage and the 'evening-morning' boundaries in such direct language would mean to take extreme liberty with the plain and direct meaning of the Hebrew language." (4)

4] Fourth, there is the argument from numbered series. In a related though slightly different observation, we note that when 'yom' appears in numbered series it always specifies natural days (e.g., Ex. 12:15-16, 24:16; Lev 23:39; Num. 7:12-36; 29:1 7ff). Genesis 1 has a series of consecutively numbered days for a reason: to indicate sequentially flowing calendar days. As E. J. Young observes about the Framework view, "If Moses had intended to teach a non-chronological view of the days, it is indeed strange that he went out of his way, as it were, to emphasize chronology and sequence.....It is questionable whether serious exegesis of Genesis One would in itself lead anyone to adopt a non-chronological view of the days for the simple reason that everything in the text militates against it." (5) Derek Kidner agrees, "The march of the days is too majestic a progress to carry no implication of ordered sequence; it also seems over-subtle to adopt a view of the passage which discounts one of the primary impressions it makes on the ordinary reader." (6) Wayne Grudem concurs: "The implication of chronological sequence in the narrative is almost inescapable:" (7)...

7] Seventh is the argument from plural expression. Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 also teach that God created the heavens and the earth "in six days" ('yammim'). As Robert L. Reymond reminds us: "Ages are never expressed by the word 'yammim'." (12) In fact, the plural 'yammim' occurs 858 times in the Old Testament, and always refers to normal days. Exodus 20:11 (like Gen. 1) lacks any kind of poetic structure; it presents a factual accounting. By this shorthand statement, God sums up His creative activity in a way that not only comports with, but actually demands a six day creative process.

Also see

This same pattern appears to be consistent in the New Testament Greek as well. In researching the use of the Greek hmera (hemera - pronounced "hay-meh'-rah"), I have found that throughout the New Testament, when used with a qualifying number, the word hemera always refers to a solar day. This then holds critical in assessing Hebrews 4:4, which reads:


For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

In this verse, we find that God rested on a literal day, the "seventh day." If this asserts a literal solar day, as the Greek grammar itself asserts, then it would be incomprehensible to consider the other six days to be anything other than literal solar days.

Thus is refuted the old-earth adherent's concept of the "day-age" use of yom in Genesis.


While science may propose that the earth is millions, or even billions, of years old, God's Word flatly contradicts this assertion and leaves very little wiggle room (if any) for those who wish to hold to such a view. There are far more and simpler explanations for what science supposedly "proves" that bring science into harmony with God's Word than there are logical and appropriate ways of reinterpreting God's Word in an attempt to bring it into harmony with science.


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For all who are truly interested in researching the scientific facts you can read this virtual encyclopedia PDF e-book (4.64MB) which exposes the fallacious 'evidence' for evolution and an old universe which can be downloaded for free here or alternatively visit Creation Ministries International