We're Celebrating 30 Years Of Today in the Word
With Some Of Our Favorite Q&As
You asked your toughest Bible Questions, and our writers answered. Find a new question every week, taken from Do Angels Really Have Wings, a question-and-answer book from Today in the Word, filled with 30 years of questions from people like you!

 


Your Question

What is the meaning of the “days” of creation? Are we to understand the days of Genesis 1 as literal 24-hour periods?

Our Answer

Godly followers of Christ throughout church history have understood the days of Genesis 1 in different ways. But one’s position on this issue should not be a litmus test of orthodoxy and evangelical commitment.

Many Bible believers maintain that the “days” are actually “ages,” long periods of time that might range from years to even millions of years. And it is possible for the word “day” to mean a period of time and not a 24-hour revolution around the sun. For example, in Genesis 2:4, the entire six-day period of creation is literally called the “day” or “when the Lord God made the earth and heavens.” Also, the prophets use the phrase “the day of the Lord” to describe the entire period of the end times.

But one of several problems in adopting this “day-age” view is that death only entered the world with Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:3). A “day-age” interpretation would require death in each of the ages, so that the fittest could survive and evolve, before Adam and Eve’s fall. It would be surprising for fossils, which indicate dead animals, to exist before the fall of humanity.

Alternatively, it is possible to interpret the creation account as referring to six 24-hour days. This would likely mean that the earth is relatively young. The 24-hour day interpretation is supported by the simplest, most normal reading of the passage. The text does not indicate that Moses was referring to an age when he used the word “day.” Moreover, the repetition of the phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) seems to refer to a 24-hour period.

This interpretation seems to contradict the evidence of an old earth as well as the fossil record. Yet, it is not impossible to hold to a young earth for two reasons. First, God may have created the earth with apparent age. Just as Adam and Eve did not look like infants but adults when they were created, so God could very well have created the earth with seeming age.

Second, the fossil record could be explained by a vast, worldwide catastrophe rather than a long period of time. For example, when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, a huge forest was cast into Spirit Lake below. The trees became water-logged and floated to the bottom. Since the roots had the most water, the trees settled in an upright fashion. Thirty-five years after the eruption, a petrified forest is now at the bottom of the lake. Any person seeing it would assume that it took millions of years. But it was caused by a catastrophe in 1980.

Whichever view one chooses to explain the word “day,” what is most important is to recognize God as the Creator of the world in His infinite power and wisdom. It is through the Lord Jesus the Messiah that “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). We must bow before the Lord Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer. 

BY Dr. Winfred O. Neely

Dr. Winfred Neely (B.A., D.Min. Trinity International University; M.A. Wheaton) is currently working towards an advanced research degree in Old Testament at the University of Bristol, England. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel and a full-time professor of hermeneutics, homiletics, and pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Prior to joining the faculty at Moody, Winfred served churches in the City of Chicago and is currently interim pastor of the Judson Baptist Church in Oak Park, IL. He brings to his ministry a global perspective, having served as a missionary/pastor in Senegal, West Africa for nine years. He is also involved in a global equipping ministry, speaking and conducting workshops and training events at churches and conferences in the US and abroad. He and his wife Stephne have been married for forty years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren. He takes acting classes from time to time and is an ardent fan of science fiction films such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.