I recommend the reader brush up on Genesis 1 by re-reading it before continuing with this case.
First, as many of you already know, Genesis 1 and most of the old testament was originally written in ancient Hebrew. And in Hebrew, the word translated "day" is "yowm" (יום) which can mean (in both Hebrew and English):
1. A 24-hour day. (The day after I ate that sandwich, I got sick!)
2. The daylight portion of a 24-hour day / Daytime (I had to work all day!)
3. An indefinite age/epoch of time. (In my grandfather's day... / in the day of the dinosaurs)
So, if it has the same meanings in both English and Hebrew, why am I bringing up the Hebrew? The answer is simple, there is one difference: There were no other words in biblical hebrew to describe an "epoch" other than a "day" or "yowm".
In English, we have many other words available (epoch, age, era, time, period), but the author of Genesis likely did not. So he had no other way to describe six consecutive epochs other than "yowm".
Most advocates for the calendar-day interpretation of Genesis 1 will acknowledge this, and seek some other reason as to *why* in this instance, the days are best interpreted as 24-hour days.
Within the text itself, two reasons are usually given by them to defend their view:
1. A number is used with "Yowm" (day one, day two, etc.), and this always indicates it must be a 24-hour day.
2. "Evening and Morning" are used with "Yowm" and this always indicates it must be a 24-hour day.
There are problems with both these claims, and they aren't all unrelated.
The most obvious one is that because "epoch" is used much less often than "day" in the 24-hour sense, there would bound to be lots of words and phrases that only happen to pop up in close proximity to "Yowm" when it is used for a 24-hour day.
If you wanted to use this argument, you need to provide some sort of evidence that these phrases are indicators of how "Yowm" is to be used. Yet, these proponents declare this as though it proves that there is some sort of "rule" in Hebrew that "Yowm" must mean a 24-hour day if paired with a number.
Another problem specifically for the first claim, it is incredibly rare that an instance of numbered epoch's would come up, but it isn't unheard of. So, it wouldn't even be all that surprising if Genesis 1 really was the only place in the bible where "Yowm" meant "epoch" and yet was also used with a number.
The number claim also seems to be incorrect. Hosea 6:1-2 describes a prophecy of numbered "days" that most would agree are not to be interpreted as 24-hour days. Similarly Zechariah 14:7 refers to the time the Lord rules over the earth to be "one day". The latter is particularly interesting, because the Hebrew phrasing is identical to that in Genesis 1. "Yowm Ekhad" (יום־אחד) is the exact phrase translated "day one" in Genesis 1.
So clearly, the use of a number is not evidence of a 24-hour day.
Incidentally, there are also several examples of a number being used with "Yowm" to refer to the second definition (daytime).
As for "Evening and Morning", they are used poetically elsewhere in scripture to refer to beginnings and endings. Examples include: Psalm 30:5, Psalm 49:14, Psalm 90:6. It is at least plausible that this is their purpose in Genesis 1.
So these arguments really don't hold much water.
Tipping The Scales:
1. The verbs used on "Day" 3 for the creation of plants are normal ones used for growth and reproduction, not spontaneous supernatural creation of fully-mature plants.
"And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation...“"
"The earth brought forth vegetation..."
The calendar-day proponent will likely claim that God accelerated the growth of these plants supernaturally, but that would be an example of eisegesis. Nothing in the text implies this.
To take that view you would have to believe that the author was writing this, envisioning God planting and supernaturally accelerating the growth of plants, yet only wrote down the part about the plants growing. Technically possible, but not the best interpretation of the passage, and a clear point in favor of the day-age view.
(Incidentally, similar terms are used of the animals created on days five and six)
2. The seventh day is implied to be ongoing, having not ended. Obviously creation occurred an awful lot more than 24-hours ago, so the seventh day must be an epoch, and if it is, it seems to follow that all of them are.
Why is the seventh day ongoing? Well for one, if you notice "evening and morning" is not used to describe day seven, it isn't capped off as though it is finished like the other days are.
In line with this, you could cite the fact that God ceased from creating ("rested") on the seventh day and obviously God isn't creating anything now but says he will in the future (the new heavens and earth). But most powerfully of all you have verses that reference the seventh day and God's rest as though it were ongoing, like:
"For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”" Psalm 95:7-11
"Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." Hebrews 4:1-11
"The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”" John 5:15-17
3. As I pointed out in a previous article, Genesis 1 describes Adam & Eve both being created on day 6 *after* the rodents, ruminants, and carnivorans are created earlier.
Yet, Genesis 2 zooms in on their creation and describes a great number of events occurring between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve. So many that it seems absurd to me that these events could all be said to occur within less than 24-hours. The events are as follows:
A - God creates Adam
B - God plants the trees of the Garden Of Eden and allows it to grow (again, no indication in the text of supernatural acceleration of growth)
C - God instructs Adam to care for and keep the Garden
D - God brings all kinds of animals to Adam for him to name and keep as pets
E - The pets are insufficient for Adam, and he becomes lonely, so God puts him to sleep and takes a biopsy from him.
F - Eve is created from the biopsy.
See a bit of a problem here? However, this makes perfect sense from a day-age perspective, where day six is actually a long epoch of time that could include all of these events with little difficulty.
4. God's creation (General Revelation) upon examination clearly demonstrates that a great deal of time passed before Adam and Eve were created.
Examination of nature through science (namely astronomy, paleontology, geology, and cosmology) blatantly demonstrate a long, several billion year history of earth prior to the first humans. Arguments against this from calendar-day proponents do not hold up to scientific scrutiny.
The bible is indeed the inerrant word of God, so either the calendar-day interpretation must be wrong, or the interpretation of the scientific data must be wrong. The scientific data supporting an old earth and universe is overwhelmingly strong, and as I have demonstrated, the calendar-day interpretation of Genesis 1 is not.
However, if you do take a day-age interpretation, you still get to take Genesis 1 as literal history, and get to accept the science regarding the old age of the earth and universe. And as it turns out, the actual events described in Genesis 1 align remarkably well with what the scientific data says about the history of the earth.
Exodus 20:11 reads "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
This is used by calendar-day proponents to say "The 7-day work week uses 24-hour days, and the creation week is a parallel to that, so the creation week must use 24-hour days also".
But this arguement doesn't really work. A parallel (even with time) is not necessarily an exact match, rather, it is a repeated *pattern*. For example:
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they sent out twelve spies to scout the the land for 40 days. The Israelites were fearful of the reports of big people and armies in the land and do not trust God to deliver them. As punishment, God causes them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. (Numbers 13:18-25, Numbers 14:34)
Another example is the "sabbath year" where years are divided into "weeks" of seven years each and on the seventh year the land is given rest from work (Leviticus 25). If this arguement were to hold than which is it? Did God create in 7 years or 7 24-hour days?
2. What about verses like Mark 10:6?
In this verse, Jesus says "However, from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’" and the idea is that it isn't really the beginning if Adam & Eve are only created several epochs after the initial creation (Genesis 1:1).
But honestly, this is true of the calendar-day creation model as well. They have Adam & Eve being created ~120 hours after the initial creation. So if you want to interpret this verse in such a wooden way, you have a problem there too.
I would say the far more likely interpretation is that Jesus is merely refering to the beginning from the context of marriage. Saying that any marriage besides monogamous man/woman marriage is an aberration from the way it has always been. The last six words I said probably are a pretty good description of the intended use of "from the beginning of creation".
And honestly, it should be obvious to anyone that the interpretation of the creation days is by no means what is in view in this passage (and its parallels), this is simply a passage about marriage.
3. What about death before the fall?
As the arguement goes, the bible says (allegedly) that all death (spiritual and physical, human and animal) is purely a result of the fall of Adam and Eve.
Thus, there could not be animal death (like dinosaurs getting wiped out by meteors and t-rex chomping down on triceratops) before humans were created and then fell into sin.
However, nowhere in the entire bible is animal death associated with the fall. Zero. In fact, many verses describe how elegantly created carnivorous animals like lions are (see Psalm 104). All verses associating the fall with death are aimed directly at humans, not animals.
This is really more of an emotional issue. Calendar-day proponents don't like the idea that the all-loving God of the bible would allow viruses, carnivores, and animal death/pain to exist for millions of years before creating humans.
But I would say first of all, that we are in no position to question God on his method of creation. If he did it that way and you don't have a real scriptural objection, just trust that he had morally good reasons for doing what he did.
Second of all, I would argue that animal suffering is vastly outweighed by animal happiness in nature. Nature is indeed "very good".
Animals do not anticipate death as we do, they live normally, eat, drink, play, and sleep their whole lives with little pain. And most carnivores will kill their prey very quickly, over in seconds. There are exceptions of course, where animals will suffer a great deal before they die, or will die very young. But these are minority cases in nature.
For a more detailed discussion on the "death before the fall" issue, see my article here.
Thanks for reading!