Creation Pt. 6: The Day-Age Theory

In my two previous posts, I looked at two non-chronological interpretations of Genesis 1. They are the Literary Framework View, and the Revelatory Day Theory. Today we move on to the chronological interpretations of Genesis 1. First up, is the Day Age Theory.

I. An Introduction to the Day-Age Theory

The best way to summarize this view, is to say that it views the days of the creation week as being non-literal, and that the word “day” is being used to convey long periods of time, or ages. “Each day in Genesis 1 represents an indefinite period of time roughly equivalent to a geologic age.” [1] Similar to the Framework view, this interpretation is appealing due to its ability to line up with what modern science says about the age of the earth.

II. The Strengths of the Day-Age Theory

Advocates of this view would appeal to verses like Psalm 90.4 (“A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”) or 2 Peter 3.8 (“With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”) to show that perhaps the word ‘day’ in the Genesis account is not meant to be taken as a 24 hour day. [PLEASE NOTE THOUGH: a much more in depth discussion of whether or not the days of creation are literal 24 hour days or not will be given when I look at the Young Earth View of creation.]

Modern science would place the age of the earth at about 4.5 billion years old.  Day-Age proponents ask that if this is indeed what we see when looking at the world, why then should the work of creation be compressed into six short days? It should be noted also, that the order of the days of creation do correspond roughly with geologic ages as science teaches us.

Science does offer up some pretty forceful arguments that are difficult to deal with under a young earth view. For example, radiometric dating of various materials have been pretty consistent with dating the earth at about 4.5-4.7 billion years. This would also include materials like moon rocks and meteorites that have fallen relatively recently and therefore would not be subject to catastrophic events like Noah’s flood.

In addition to radiometric dating, there is the time required for liquid magma to cool (about 1 million years needed for a formation in southern California. The time and pressure required for the formation of many metamorphic rocks that contain small fossils (Some of which could only be formed by being buried 12 to 18 miles under ground and later brought to the surface. But when could this have happened on a young earth view?) There is also the topic of continental drift. Fossil bearing rock fields on the coasts of south America and Africa were previously joined together. At the current rate of continental drift of about 2 centimeters per year, after 20,000 years, that is only about a quarter of a mile[2].

III. The Weaknesses of the Day-Age Theory

The main problem with the Day-Age theory is that quite simply, the days of creation do not adequately line up with scientific geologic ages.

  1. The creation of animal life does not line up with current understanding of the evolutionary development of life, like sea creatures (day 5) before trees (day 3).
  2. According to Genesis, the sun, moon, and stars weren’t made until the fourth day. This would then mean, according to the Day-Age Theory, that the plant life created on day 3 existed for millions of years before the creation of the sun.
    • The response that is made here is that an alternate translation of the Hebrew solves this dilemma. “The verbs in Genesis 1.16 can be taken as perfects, indicating something that God had done before.” [3] This would then mean the verse could be translated as follows: “And God had made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; He had made the stars also.”
    • This is grammatically possible. In fact, this is how the NIV translates the same verb form in 2.8 and 2.19.[4]
    • What this alternate translation means is that it would have the sun, moon, and stars already created by the time they are mentioned on the fourth day.

[1] Herbert Wolf. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. 101.

[2] Scientific data from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. 298-299. Grudem was quoting the work of Davis A. Young, in Christianity and the Age of the Earth.

[3] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. 300.

[4] ibid.

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