Bible Difficulty Monday: Genesis 2:1

Genesis 2:1: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them”

Problem: The Bible says that God created the world in six days (Exod. 20:11). But modern science declares that it took billions of years. Both cannot be true.

Solution: There are basically two ways to reconcile this difficulty. First, some scholars argue that modern science is wrong. They insist that the universe is only thousands of years old and that God created everything in six literal 24-hour days (144 hours). In favor of this view, they offer the following:

1. The days of Genesis have “evening and the morning” (cf. Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), something unique to 24-hour days in the Bible.

2. The days were numbered (first, second, third, etc.), a feature found only with 24-hour days in the Bible.

3. Exodus 20:11 compares the six days of creation with the six days of a literal workweek of 144 hours.

4. There is scientific evidence to support a young age (of thousands of years) for the earth.

5. There is no way life could survive millions of years from day three (1:11) to day four (1:14) without light.

Other Bible scholars claim that the universe could be billions of years old without sacrificing a literal understanding of Genesis 1 and 2. They argue that:

1. The days of Genesis 1 could have a time lapse before the days began (before Gen. 1:3), or a time gap between days. There are gaps elsewhere in the Bible (cf. Matt. 1:8, where three generations are omitted, with 1 Chron. 3:11-14).

2. The same Hebrew word “day” (yom) is used in Genesis 1-2 as a period of time longer than 24 hours. For example, Genesis 2:4 uses it of the whole six-day period of creation.

3. Sometimes the Bible used the word “day” for long periods of time: “One day is as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8; cf. Ps. 90:4).

4. There are some indications in Genesis 1-2 that days could be longer than 24 hours:

a) On the third “day” trees grew from seeds to maturity and they bore like seeds (1:11-12). This process normally takes months or years.

b) On the sixth “day” Adam was created, went to sleep, named all the (thousands of) animals, looked for a helpmeet, went to sleep, and Eve was created from his rib. This looks like more than 24 hours worth of activity.

c) The Bible says God “rested” on the seventh day (2:2), and that He is still in His rest from creation (Heb. 4:4). Thus, the seventh day is thousands of years long already. If so, then other days could be thousands of years too.

5. Exodus 20:11 could make a unit-for-unit comparison between the days of Genesis and a workweek (of 144 hours), not a minute-by-minute comparison.

Conclusion: There is no demonstrated contradiction of fact between Genesis 1 and science. There is only a conflict of interpretation. Either most modern scientists are wrong in insisting the world is billions of years old, or else some Bible interpreters are wrong in insisting on only 144 hours of creation some several thousand years before Christ, with no gaps allowing millions of years. But in either case it is not a question of the inspiration of Scripture, but of the interpretation of Scripture (and of the scientific data).