A number of alternative views of the six days may be noted, all of which claim loyalty to the biblical text:-
- The ‘literal’ view. the world was created in six 24-hour days a few thousand years ago.
- The ‘religious-only’ view. Gen 1 is true from a theological point of view, but not from a scientific point of view.
- The ‘flood geology’ view. Hold to a literal understanding of the six days, the geological record being the result of the Noahanic flood.
- The ‘local creation’ view. Gen 1 refers to a remodelling of a small part of the earth. Geology accounts for the history of the word, while Gen 1 is the record of the re-creation of a certain territory.
- The ‘ideal time’ view. The world was created quite recently, but features such as tree-rings, navels, and rock strata would already be present at the moment of creation, suggesting an extreme apparent age.
- The ‘gap’ view. There is a long gap between Gen 1:1 (the original creation) and Gen 1:2 (a refashioning of the earth in six literal days).
- The ‘age-day’ view. The word ‘day’ is used figuratively to mean ‘epoch’. Each epoch is characterised by a distinctive creative act, the order of which corresponds quite closely to the scientific record.
- The ‘framework’ view. The ‘days’ of creation constitute a literary framework ‘designed to teach that God alone is the creator of an orderly universe, and to call upon human beings made in the image of the creator God to reflect God’s creative activity in their own pattern of labor. (Gen 2:2; Ex 31:17).’ (New Geneva Study Bible)
Young earth creationists (YCs) interpret the days as 24-hour, consecutive periods for reasons such as the following: (1) The days in Gn 1 are consecutively numbered and comprised of an “evening and morning.” (2) Exodus 20:8–11 commands a literal week of six days of work and one day of rest based on God’s original creation/rest week. The two weeks would seem, then, to be of equal duration. (3) According to Rm 5:12, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,” but old-earth creationism would have animal death entering the world before the sin of Adam and Eve.
‘Old earth creationists (OCs) argue against 24-hour creation days for reasons such as these: (1) The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) is used in different ways in the creation account. For instance, Gn 1:5 refers yom only to daytime (daylight), not night-time. Also, Gn 2:4, literally translated, speaks of “the yom that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (2) God’s rest on the seventh “day” has no evening and morning (Gn 2:2–3), and Heb 4:3–11 portrays this same Sabbath as continuing to the present time. (3) Adam could not have named all the birds and animals in 24 hours according to Gn 2.’ (Apologetics Study Bible)
‘Reformed scholars have proposed several interpretations of the creative “day.” Some view these as literal, sequential, 24-hour days. This interpretation usually entails the view that the earth is relatively “young” (c. 10,000 years old or less). Other scholars, noting that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) can refer to periods of time, (e.g., Gen 2:4) have proposed the “day-age theory,” that the creative “days” refer to extended ages or epochs of time. Still others suggest that literal, 24-hour days are intended, but that these days were separated by extended periods of time. Finally, some scholars argue that the “days” of creation constitute a literary framework (Gen 1:3-31 note) designed to teach that God alone is the creator of an orderly universe, and to call upon human beings made in the image of the creator God to reflect God’s creative activity in their own pattern of labor. (Gen 2:2; Ex 31:17) This “framework hypothesis” views the days of creation as God’s gracious accommodation to the limitations of human knowledge-an expression of the infinite Creator’s work in terms understandable to finite and frail human beings. This last group of scholars observes that the universe gives the appearance of great antiquity, that the phrase “morning and evening” seems inconsistent with the “day-age” theory, and that the notion of intervening ages between isolated 24-hour days is not apparent from the text.’ (New Geneva)
J.I. Packer has offered the following interpretative guidelines:-
- The narrative is a celebration of creation and the Creator, rather than a step-by-step monitoring of the stages of the creative process.
- The story focuses not on the cosmos as a system but on the Creator on whom its existence depends.
- The earth-centredness is not a reflection of scientific nievity but of man’s uniqueness and responsibility under God on this planet.
- The aim of this passage is not to satisfy curiosity about beginnings but to show its readers their place and calling in the world, and to demonstrate the abiding significance of the sabbath as a memorial of creation.