Evening and Morning
It is sometimes asserted that a 'day' in scripture is always 24 hours. Is that so?
Joshua's day at Gibeon exceeded 24 hours in length. It took "about a whole day" for the sun to travel from its meridian to sunset. Like the English word 'day,' this word can mean either the period of day-light, or the entire evening/morning cycle. Since there is no suggestion God also granted superhuman strength to these soldiers, 'day-light' seems likelier here. So in this case, either an interval normally lasting six hours lasted twelve instead, or else an additional twelve hours, the average length of day-light, was tacked on while the sun remained at its noon-day height ("in the midst of heaven"), for a total length of evening/morning of thirty-six hours. If the theory were true that all 'days' recorded in scripture must be twenty-four hours in length, this thirty-six hour interval could not be described as a 'day.' Yet it is so described: "And there has been no day like that, before it or after it..."
If the theory were correct that a 'day' must be twenty-four hours, these two events would have thrown the whole system out of whack, and instead of beginning at evening, each day would begin in the middle of the night. Yet no such adjustment was made. Evidently the whole system is calibrated to the returning cycle of dark/light; it does not run by the clock. Notice also that these two remarkable days are not of like length with the day before, nor the day after.
These passages do not supply a 'translation table,' but warn against measuring God by our puny standard. God is higher than we can conceive: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9):
"Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
Realizing God's immensity and transcendence, it seems dubious that He sets His alarm clock like a farmer so He does not forget to do His chores. Why would He be bound by our time scale? Rather, He has ordained our little days to mimic His activity in creation.
God not only wrote the Bible, but created the astronomy that defines the Bible's 'day.' Had God intended the day to be a constant interval, He could have so constrained the laws of nature. But the observational day is not a constant interval; it changes throughout the year, and down through the ages of time:
"The basis of astronomical time systems is the Greenwich mean solar time, denoted by UT (Universal Time), sometimes also by GMT. The universal time obtained directly from observations is called UT0. If we correct this for changes of the meridian due to motions of the Earth's rotation axis (precession, nutation, motion of the pole), we get UT1. Even this is not accurate enough for modern time measurements. UT1 suffers from tiny irregularities caused by variations in the Earth's rotation rate. These variations have at least two periods, one year and half a year. Removing these effects we get UT2, which has relative errors of the order 10-7. Even UT2 is not exact because of long-term changes in the Earth's rotation, such as slowing down due to tidal friction...The Earth's rotation rate has been slowing down so that since 1972, a leap second has been added nearly every year." (Fundamental Astronomy, H. Karttunen, P. Kroger et al, p. 39).
A second per year is a minute every sixty years, an hour in 3,600 years. No one has ever 'corrected' the compution of the sabbath for this phenomenon, because it's not the clock but darkness that starts the sabbath. The day that God created is not a fixed interval, but the continuing oscillation of dark and light.
The Jewish way of reckoning days: from evening to evening -- has the odd consequence that days are not exactly 24 hours long. From the time of the spring equinox to the summer solstice, the time of sun-down grows later as the night shrinks. Days measured from evening to evening during this period exceed 24 hours. From the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice, the night grows longer until it reaches its greatest extent, and the interval measured from evening to evening is smaller. Had it been important to God for days to be exactly 24 hours long, with nothing left over, He could have set the start-time for the day at an invariant point like midnight, as the Romans did, or noon-time. He did not, but at a variable point, evening.
The same God who inspired the Bible also wrote the book of nature: ". . .for the book of nature, which we have to read, is written by the finger of God." (Michael Faraday, Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics, p. 471). He made and ordered all things created, He gave law and meaning to creation, the natural realm is His handiwork. Some readers claim nature is artificially 'distressed,' that God is like an unscrupulous antiques dealer who makes something look old when it is not. But according to the word, God "cannot lie."
"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting system, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."
We should read Genesis with the Bible in one hand and the book of nature in the other. At long last for our generation the second book is opening itself to clear the obscurities in the first; it is God's own commentary on Genesis. If, as some claim, God has testified dishonestly in the one, how can we trust His testimony in the other? Bible-believers who would see the evident blasphemy in the premise, 'You can't trust what God says in the Bible to be true, perhaps He is testing us,' nevertheless talk as if nature, His other masterwork, were an atheist fabrication. God made it; it is not falsified!
The two books not only do not conflict, but harmonize wonderfully. How long before the worldly thought of the 'Big Bang' did God's people know it all started with "Let there be light"!
God created the sun on the fourth day of creation. The Bible does not say the sun, the "greater light," was created previously but only appeared on that day, but that God "made" them on that day.
Twenty-four hours is the period of the earth's rotation, turning toward and away from the sun's light. Before that luminary was lit, how could a 'day' have had reference to the sun's daily rising and setting? 'Darkness' and 'light,' prior to the fourth day, cannot have had any reference to the sun's daily routine and thus there is no reason to suppose this divinely ordained tag team counted out twenty-four hours.
"The blessings of your father
Only God is from age to age the same:
"Before the mountains were brought forth,
Some readers believe the Bible intends to communicate that the earth is young. They combine the six days of creation, which they tally at 24 hours apiece, with 40 years per generation (so that the woman Jesus identified as "daughter of Abraham" (Luke 13:16) is presumed to be forty years younger than her ancestor), to arrive at an age for the earth in the thousands of years. The Bible, however, does not say that the earth is young. Rather the Bible uses a word that means 'ancient' or 'age-old' to describe the hills:
"...With the best things of the ancient mountains,
If the earth's age were not a substantial multiple of the average human life-span, calling the hills 'age-old' might seem excessive. Of course age is relative; what seems a long time to a may-fly might seem brief to an elephant. Still, if some readers insist the Bible means to say that the earth is young, the fact remains that the Bible does not say the earth is young, but age-old:
"One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
"He stood and measured the earth;
Bible genealogies, like genealogies in the ancient world generally, will often skip a generation, several generations, or more. They are not intended as chronologies, but as a record of descent and relation. If God had intended to communicate the age of the earth in the Bible, then why not simply say, 'This happened two thousand years ago,' or whenever? This information is not given. Yet some people think they can outsmart God and tease the information out of the Bible genealogies. This 'calendar' misfires because of sequences like Matthew 1:8:
"And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;. . ." (Matthew 1:8).
Very straight-forward; but an interpreter who concludes Joram was the father of Uzziah and counts forty years between falls into error:
"And Joram begat Ozias; called Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:1 and Azariah, 2 Kings 15:1. He was not the immediate son of Joram; there were three kings between them, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, which are here omitted; either because of the curse denounced on Ahab's family, into which Joram married, whose idolatry was punished to the third or fourth generation; or because these were princes of no good character; or because their names were not in the Jewish registers. Nor does this omission at all affect the design of the Evangelist, which is to show that Jesus, the true Messiah, is of the house of David; nor ought the Jews to complain of it, as they do since such omissions are to be met with in the Old Testament, particularly in Ezra 7:2 where six generations are omitted at once. . ." (John Gill, Exposition of the Entire Bible).
A list of names in a genealogy could indeed be used as a dating device, were it known of a certainty that there are no gaps. Knowing this, we might then posit that each named figure was 40 years old, more or less, when he fathered the next, unless the age at fatherhood is stated explicitly. Let's try this approach as provided by Moses' genealogy: "And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years. . .And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years. . .And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years." (Exodus 6:16:20). There are three generations between Levi and Moses, so using our handy-dandy time scale gives us 120 years for the Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Yet that is wrong; it was 430 years (Exodus 12:40). Our time scale is 'off,' by a factor of four. The Bible author intends to establish that Moses is of the tribe of Levi, and that his father was Amram; the intermediate links do not interest him. This happens all the time with Bible genealogies and with ancient genealogies generally; they intend to establish descent and relation, they were never intended for use to establish the time interval between generations.
How many times is Jesus of Nazareth called the "son of David" in the New Testament? And so He is; but the chronologist who counts forty years between David and Jesus had wandered far from the truth. Old earth creation offers the best fit between what is observed and the Bible, and does not make unverifiable leaps by using descent as a stop-watch.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as chance; there is no falling sparrow outside God's domain. The hallmark of God's creation is the superabundance of order there is in the world. Those who look for order, find it. But those who look for order amongst living things, searching out a 'periodic table' of the animals, are laughed at by those intent on assigning causality to what is not.
Some in the modern world have revived the old Epicurean paradigm of a world brought about by chance and selection. This is not a testable scientific hypothesis, but a global explanation of everything, which some find satisfying. Chance cannot be a cause, because it is not anything. There must be an equal degree of reality in the cause as in the effect; an unreal cause cannot bring about a real result. Explaining everything by resorting to nothing is unsound.
These pictures show the cataclysmic event which brought the evening or night-fall of the sixth day, the onset of the 'nuclear winter' which closed the epoch of the birds a.k.a. dinosaurs. Prior to Darwin, people traced mass extinctions to cataclysms. Then Darwin explained there were no cataclysms, it all happened 'gradually.' People have quietly dropped that and gone back to cataclysms. A comet has ever been a portent of doom, and so it was for the dinosaurs.
The early church authors held a variety of perspectives on the opening chapters of Genesis vis-a-vis the question of a 'young earth' versus 'old earth.' One who was open to 'old earth' thinking was Irenaeus, who in investigating the day that Adam ate/died, raises the possibility of a "day of creation" being a thousand years in length:
“For at the beginning, when God had given to man a variety of things for food, while He commanded him not to eat of one tree only, as the Scripture tells us that God said to Adam: “From every tree which is in the garden thou shalt eat food; but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from this ye shall not eat: for in the day that ye shall eat of it, ye shall die by death;” he then, lying against the Lord, tempted man, as the Scripture says that the serpent said to the woman: “Has God indeed said this, Ye shall not eat from every tree of the garden?”. . .Thus, then, in the day that they did eat, in the same did they die, and became death’s debtors, since it was one day of the creation. For it is said, “There was made in the evening, and there was made in the morning, one day.” Now in this same day that they did eat, in that also did they die. . .And there are some, again, who relegate the death of Adam to the thousandth year; for since “a day of the Lord is as a thousand years,” he did not overstep the thousand years, but died within them, thus bearing out the sentence of his sin. Whether, therefore, with respect to disobedience, which is death; whether [we consider] that, on account of that, they were delivered over to death, and made debtors to it; whether with respect to [the fact that on] one and the same day on which they ate they also died (for it is one day of the creation); whether [we regard this point], that, with respect to this cycle of days, they died on the day in which they did also eat, that is, the day] of the preparation, which is termed “the pure supper,” that is, the sixth day of the feast, which the Lord also exhibited when He suffered on that day; or whether [we reflect] that he (Adam) did not overstep the thousand years, but died within their limit, — it follows that, in regard to all these significations, God is indeed true.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book Five, Chapter 23, 1-2, pp. 1104-1106, ANF_01).
Philo Judaeus, a first century non-Christian Jewish writer, did not believe the six days of creation were twenty-four hour days:
"'And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made.' It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time; because all time is only the space of days and nights, and these things the motion of the sun as he passes over the earth and under the earth does necessarily make. But the sun is a portion of heaven, so that one must confess that time is a thing posterior to the world. Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time." (Philo Judaeus, The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation. Book I, Chapter II)
However, Philo's own allegorical interpretation is not credible either.