Creation Week

1. What was created on the first day of creation week?

God said, "Let there be light." (Genesis 1:3). The Earth had previously been dark (Genesis 1:2). On the first day, God caused Earth to be lighted. This does not mean that light had not existed prior to this time, because God's presence is associated with light (Psalm 104:2; Revelation 22:5). The text does not say that the physical phenomenon of light was first created at that time, but the previously dark Earth was lightened. One possible explanation of the light is that God personally and physically came to Earth, causing it to be lightened. If so, then how could it become dark (evening) again? God’s presence can bring either light or darkness, as shown by the experience of the Hebrews in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). Perhaps the rotation of Earth produced day and night in different portions of the surface, as it does today.

Another possible explanation of the light is that the sun and solar system actually existed before creation week, but the light was obscured so that Earth's surface was dark. Earth at that time might be compared with Venus, where the thick atmosphere obscures the sun's light. On the first day, the atmosphere was cleared sufficiently to permit light to reach Earth's surface. [1] Another conjecture is that light might have come from another source, such as a supernova. Another possible interpretation is discussed in the next section.

2. What was created on the fourth day of creation week?

God said "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night...." Two great lights are described, one to rule the day and one to rule the night. These lights appeared on the fourth day of creation week. The details are not given. They may have been created on that day. If so, the light of the first three days might have been provided by God's presence.

If our solar system existed before the creation week, as some creationists think is probable, then apparently the sun itself was not visible until the fourth day. This might be explained as due to atmospheric cloud cover, permitting diffuse light to reach the surface, but not revealing the source of that light. On the fourth day, perhaps the atmosphere was cleared to permit the sun and moon to be seen for the first time. Another possible interpretation is that the sun and moon existed prior to that time, but on the fourth day they were "appointed" to specific functions relative to the Earth. [2]

The phrase, "he made the stars also" does not require that God created the stars ex nihilo on the fourth day of creation. Some creationists have held that the entire universe, or at least the visible portion, was created on the fourth day. The text permits this reading, but does not require it. The words “he made” are not in the original, but were supplied by the translators because they thought that is what the author meant to say. A better translation of the Hebrew text is “the lesser light to rule the night the stars also.” This could mean that the moon was appointed to rule the night with the stars. This suggestion is supported by Psalm 136:7-9, which reads “the moon and stars to rule by night.” [3]

3. Why doesn't the sequence of the days of creation match the sequence in the fossil record?

The sequence of creation according to Genesis included the following: 1) seed plants, including fruit-bearing trees; 2) flying creatures (such as birds) and swimming creatures (such as fish and whales); 3) land creatures (such as reptiles, mammals and humans). In the fossil record, the sequence is different: 1) fish; 2) seed plants, but not fruit-bearing plants; 3) land reptiles; 4) flying reptiles; 5) land mammals; 6) birds; 7) fruit-bearing trees; 8) whales; 9) humans. The fossil sequence does not match the creation sequence, because the fossil record is a record of death rather than a record of the creation of life. Moreover, the fossil record was produced after the creation week. There was no process of fossilization between the days of creation.

4. Could the days of creation actually represent periods of a thousand years each, as in 2 Peter 3:8?

Making the creation "days" equal to a thousand years each does not help explain the text. The fossil sequence does not match the creation sequence. Vegetation is created before marine creatures in the creation account, but appears after them in the fossil record. Birds are created before terrestrial reptiles, but appear after them in the fossil record.

If the thousand years are thought of as having a single evening and morning, each evening must have occupied approximately half of that time, or 500 years. Vegetation could not survive 500 years of darkness. If the thousand years are thought of as ordinary years, this does not resolve the supposed ages of the fossils, which are claimed to be millions of years old. Any attempt to make the creation "days" equal to a thousand years accomplishes nothing to resolve the scientific questions, [5] but produces additional textual and theological problems.

5. Could the "days" of creation represent indefinite periods of time?

In Genesis, the "days" are numbered from 1 to 7, indicating a sequence. They consist of "an evening and a morning" — a dark period and a light period. The process of creation that is described is fiat — creation on command. The language seems clearly to indicate ordinary days.

One test of whether this interpretation is correct is to determine whether the "days" are used to make any point in the rest of Scripture. They are. In Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, the days of creation are used as the basis for observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. The interpretation of creation days as literal days is supported by the occurrence of the Sabbath as one literal day out of the week of seven literal days. [6]

Interpreting the creation "days" as seven indefinite periods of time merely adds to the problems in understanding the text. The sequence of events in Genesis does not match the geologic record. If the days are not literal, the sequence of events surely is not literal, and the process of instantaneous creation by fiat is not literal. If Genesis does not accurately describe the sequence of events or the process involved, it seems pointless to attempt to find significance in the seven time periods.

6. Did the creation take place 6000 years ago?

The Bible does not give a date for the creation. It does contain chronological and genealogical data that suggest a creation about 6000-7500 years ago, depending on which of the ancient versions is used. Some creationists have concluded that the biblical chronological data is essentially complete, and the creation occurred about 6000 years ago. Other creationists who are unconvinced that the biblical data is complete would accept an extension of time, so long as it did not change the character of the creation story. Moving the creation and flood back a few thousand years would make little theological difference, but moving it back hundreds of thousands or millions of years would imply that humans have improved over time, which is contrary to the message of the Bible. Therefore, biblical creationists would insist that the age of the Genesis creation is measured in thousands, but not millions, of years.

7. How did Cain find a wife if there were no other humans around before creation week?

Adam and Eve had many children, of both sexes (Genesis 5:4). Daughters' names are infrequently mentioned in Scripture, but they were present. Cain undoubtedly married a sister. This would have presented no genetic problems among people so recently created. Accumulations of harmful mutations since that time have made it highly inadvisable for siblings to produce children, because of the greatly increased probability of genetically defective offspring. Abraham apparently married a half-sister (Genesis 20:12), which suggests that within-family marriages were socially acceptable during the time of Abraham. Even today, first-cousin marriages are common throughout much of the world, although they are associated with an increased risk of birth defects. [7]

8. Do Genesis 1 and 2 present different accounts of the creation?

Some feel Genesis 1 and 2 provide contradictory accounts of creation, while others maintain that the two accounts are complementary. The complementary interpretation might suggest that the creation week is outlined in Genesis 1, ending in Genesis 2:4. Genesis 1 is concerned with the chronology of creation, while Genesis 2 is an amplification of the creation of humans and their Eden home. Genesis 1 introduces the universality of the creation, while Genesis 2 provides the opening for the stories of human experience told in the remainder of the book. The language of the two chapters can be interpreted as conflicting if one chooses to do so, but the language does not require a conflict. [8]

9. What unsolved questions about creation week are of greatest interest?

What events took place on Days 1 and 4 of Creation Week? When were the water and minerals of the Earth created?

[1] See: (a) Mitchell C. 1995. The case for creationism. Grantham, Lincs, UK: Autumn House Publ, p 205; (b) Coffin HG, Brown RH and Gibson LJ. 2005. Origin by Design, revised edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publ. Assn, 23.

[2] Davidson, RM. “Light on the first day of creation. Dialogue 14/3(2002):24 ff.

[3] E.g., see Doukhan, JB. The Genesis creation story: Text, issues and truth. Origins 55(2004):12-33.

[4] This interpretation would explain Job 38:7 as referring to the rejoicing of the intelligent beings on other worlds at the creation of the world. That there are other worlds with intelligent beings is indicated in the story of Satan representing the earth in the heavenly council in Job 1:6 and 2:1.

[5] See: Hasel GF. The "days" of creation in Genesis 1: literal "days" or figurative "periods/epochs" of time? Origins 21(1994):5-38.

[6] See a brief discussion in Gibson, LJ. Origins. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2012, 101-109.

[7] Sheridan, E et al. Risk factors for congenital anomaly in a multiethnic birth cohort: an analysis of the Born in Bradford study. The Lancet doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61132-0; accessed 30 September 2013.

[8] (a) Luo PHK. 1989. Does Genesis 2 contradict Genesis 1? Ministry (March), p 15; (b) Shea WH. 1989. Literary structural parallels between Genesis 1 and 2. Origins 16:49-68; (c) Younker RW. 2000. Genesis 2: a second creation account? In: Baldwin JT, editor. Creation, Catastrophe and Calvary. Hagerstown MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., p 69-78.