Not literally 24 hours


Throughout Church history people have assumed Genesis chapter 1 teaches a literal 24–hour day. But it is not literal at all, as I show.

Young earth creationists insist the word day in Genesis 1 interpreted literally refers to 24 hours. But it's not literal; it's figurative. Here's the passage...

God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

The four Hebrew words...

Two key points...


Uses of the word "day"

Some different ways the word day is used in Genesis...


Evening and morning

God called the expanse "sky". And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. (Genesis 1:8)

Many assume the word day is a 24 hour day. But the only times the word day clearly and unambiguously means a 24 hour day are: (1) when it is in the context of other days, or (2) when referring to a particular day of the week. Whenever the word day is referred to in the context of parts of a day such as morning, evening, light, cool of the day, darkness and nighttime, a 24 hour day is not what is in mind.

Many assume the formula...

...there was evening, and there was morning — the XYZ day

means 24 hour days; at first sight this seems reasonable. But there is something peculiar about this formula suggesting otherwise.


If this formula had instead been...

...God did these things on day XYZ and it took a whole day and a whole night

it would have been clear the day was a 24 hour day.


If this formula had instead been...

...there was daytime, and there was nighttime — the XYZ day

it probably would have been referring to a 24 hour day because the daytime and the nighttime are the two parts of the day which together make up a 24 hour day. However, even then, some uncertainty would remain.


Simply not literal

The formula...

...there was evening, and there was morning — the XYZ day

is simply not literal. This is a result of the use of the words evening and morning since evening and morning together do not make up a complete day; there is also midday, afternoon and nighttime — the phrase is ambiguous.

We should also notice the words evening and morning in the order they are given correspond with the starting and ending points for that part of a 24 hour day called night. Looking at the words evening and morning a bit further...

Evening

Morning


Figurative understanding of Genesis 1

...there was evening, and there was morning — the XYZ day

Some possible ways this formula can be interpreted. (I'll not address the creation models suggested by these.)


Conclusion

The young earth view claims to use literal interpretation but is, in fact, figurative.

Certainly the 6 days of creation can be 24 hours, but the usage of words and context strongly suggest otherwise.