I began evaluating the responses put forth in this lengthy post. The author, J.W. Wartick, attempts to provide old earth creationist responses to arguments made by young earth creationists. I gave a brief introduction with my first post, so I would encourage folks to read it in order to get the gist of what I am wanting to accomplish.
Wartick outlines 16 or so responses to YEC arguments that I will group together in categories so as to help keep my evaluation focused. With this second entry, I want to look at what he claims regarding the meaning of yom, or “day” in Genesis 1 and 2.
The Exegesis of “Day” in The Creation Week
One of the more frustrating experiences I have when engaging OEC is their woeful lack of interaction with the exegesis of the Hebrew text in Genesis 1. Even more is when YEC provide their exegesis, the OEC either ignore it, or dismissively wave it off, and rarely, if at all, offer any meaningful response as to why the YEC exegesis of Genesis 1 is incorrect, or mistaken, or whatever. And keep in mind here I am talking about exegesis of the language. That’s a bit different than interpreting what the exegesis is communicating, though I recognize that there is overlap between exegesis, hermeneutics, and interpretive conclusions.
Because there are a number of online resources in which YEC have provided full studies of Genesis 1, I will merely keep my responses short and specific and direct readers to a hand full of articles that provide more specialized detail regarding the meaning of yom in Genesis. My exhortation, especially to my critics, is to please avail yourself of these articles. You must be informed with what YEC believes rather than just repeat cliched strawmen arguments about what YEC doesn’t believe.
How Long were the Creation Days of Genesis 1? – Russell Grigg
The Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach – James Stambaugh
A Summary of Evidence for Literal 24-Hour Days in Genesis 1 – Andrew Kulikovsky
A Defense of Literal Days in the Creation Week – Robert McCabe
Echad as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5 – Andrew Steinmann
Now with that in mind, let me move to what Mr. Wartick writes,
The Meaning of Day
The Hebrew word used in Genesis one, yom, means day. It literally means a 24 hour period.
Often this argument is presented in a fairly demeaning and/or ad hominem way to the opponent: “Why do you insist on reading man’s fallible ideas into the text? It says day, it means day. I trust the Bible.”
Actually, the Hebrew word yom has several different literal meanings. For example, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Lexicon, yom can mean “day, time, or year”; day as opposed to night; a 24 hour day; a time or period of time; a year; an age. Thus, if someone reads the text and argues that in Genesis 1 the days mean “ages”, they are still reading the text literally.
He is correct in that the Hebrew word yom, translated as “day,” does have a number of meanings other than just a 24-hour day, or what would be better understood as one rotation of the earth on its axis, day time to night time and day time again, or sun rise to sun rise.
Where this response errs is with failing to consider what yom means in the context of Genesis 1. He commits the error that D.A. Carson has termed an “Unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field” [Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, p. 60]. In other words, while it may be true that a particular word has different meanings in other contexts and those contexts maybe can shed light upon its meaning elsewhere, what is important is determining the word’s meaning in the immediate context under examination.
Certainly yom can mean “a period of time” as in “back in my father’s day,” or “in the days of Noah,” but is that what it means in the context of Genesis 1? The point is that we don’t rush off to other instances where a word may mean something different, and then bring that definition back to the passage we are studying and assume that different definition has any relevance to our study. Other exegetical factors in the immediate context must be weighed to determine what the proper definition may be. In the case of Genesis chapter 1, there are a number of those exegetical factors that narrow the definition of yom down to meaning an ordinary, 24-hour day.
Moving along to the next point,
Evening and Morning
When the Genesis 1 text refers to the days, it applies the terms “evening and morning” to each one of days 1-6, which means that each day is indeed a 24 hour period. That’s what evening and morning means.
The delineation of time periods for days was not possible until the fourth day. As it is written, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth” (Genesis 1:14-15, I italicized “days”). Thus, the text itself tells us that the sun did not serve as a specific indicator of the length of days until the fourth “day.”
The repetition of evening and morning is an indication of the metaphor for the work week used throughout Genesis 1. Notice that evening and morning are reversed from the order in which they occur in a 24 hour day.
With this response, Wartick seems to miss the main point of what is being presented. The fact that Moses marks the passage of days by saying the “evening and the morning” X day, only solidifies the ordinary, calendar view of yom. Whether or not there was a sun that rose and set is irrelevant. He also concludes his comment by saying “notice that evening and morning are reversed from the order in which they occur in a 24-hour day,” but so, what? It is still indicating an ordinary, calendar day. Modern descriptions of a 24-hour day with the sun rising and then setting is of no matter.
He also appeals to a typical argument raised by OEC by saying “The sun and moon weren’t created until day 4, so this isn’t a normal day.” But again, so, what? Is the presence of the sun necessary for one to know about the passage of time and to count off one day, two days, etc.? Of course not. During the winter in Alaska the sun doesn’t rise for a number of weeks. The same during the summer when it never sets. Are days being experienced when that happens?
All that is needed is a light source, which in the case of the first three days of creation could very well had been the Lord Himself. Genesis 1 is clear that on day 4 God created the luminaries, or light holders, into which the light was gathered and those luminaries took over the function as serving as the light source for the earth. Those luminaries came into existence on day 4 and did not exist prior to that day.
Moving along to a third point,
Day is not a long period of time
Sure, there are other literal meanings of “yom” and in poetic literature it says that a day is like a thousand years for the LORD, but Genesis is a narrative and so the days mean literal 24 hour periods.
Actually, in the very same account the word day is used in order to refer to the whole time of creation. As it is written, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4). I used the ESV translation here because the NIV translation translates yom as “when” here. In this text, the word “day” refers to the entirety of God’s creative work. Thus, the text itself utilizes the same word, yom, to mean a longer period of time than a 24 hour period in the same context of creation. And because this is “narrative” it can’t be dismissed as “mere poetry.”
Again, as I already noted in the first response above, there are other meanings for the word yom. In the case of Genesis 2:4, the context would make the yom speak to the whole creation week. But, once again, Wartick is ignoring the earlier context when yom specifically described events that took place on one calendar day. So yom can mean a longer period of time than 24-hours like in Genesis 2:4, but yom means 24-hour day in the creation week because the immediate context demands it.