Christianity Knowledge Base

Day-Age Creationism, a type of Old Earth Creationism, is an effort to reconcile the literal Genesis account of Creation with modern scientific theories on the age of the Universe, the Earth, life, and humans. It holds that the six days referred to in the Genesis account of creation are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather are much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years). The Genesis account is then interpreted as an account of the process of cosmic evolution, providing a broad base on which any number of theories and interpretations are built. Proponents of the Day-Age Theory can be found among Theistic Evolutionists and progressive creationists.

The differences between the Young-Earth interpretation of Genesis and modern scientific theories are nontrivial: the Young-Earth interpretation says that everything in the Universe and on Earth was created in six 24-hour days (with a seventh day of rest), estimated by them to have occurred some 6,000 years ago; whereas recent mainstream scientific theories put the age of the Universe at 13.7 billion years and that of the Earth at 4.6 billion years, with various forms of life, including humans, being formed continually thereafter.

The Day-Age Theory tries to reconcile these views by arguing that the Creation "days" were not 24-hour days, but actually lasted for long periods of time -- or as the theory's name implies: the "days" each lasted an age. According to this view, the sequence and duration of the Creation "days" is representative or symbolic of the sequence and duration of events that scientists theorize to have happened, such that Genesis can be read as a summary of modern science, simplified for the benefit of pre-scientific humans.

Biblical debate[]

Purpose of the creation account[]

Some Day-Age creationists suggest that the very brief account of creation in Genesis was not intended as exhaustive, but rather some suggest it may be a succinct summary of ancient knowledge in the Levant. Many argue that the Creation narrative is brief because it serves as an introduction linking the rise of the Judaic ethnos to the dawn of time. Thus, to ascribe any specific and definitive interpretation is beyond the scope and intent of the passages in Genesis and is by nature subjective and controversial. Moreover, to require that faith in God be contingent on any one interpretation of creation is to limit a believer's faith to earthly and not spiritual matters.

The meaning of “day” (yôma)[]

Much of the debate centres on the interpretation of the word day (yôma in the original Hebrew.) Some common arguments in favour of the identification of this term with a long period of time are listed below. Note that the Day-Age Creationists (henceforth referred to as DACs) have differences between themselves, and some of these arguments are accepted by only certain camps of DACs.

1) It is noted that God is not bound by time (Psalms 90:4 etc.), so the term "day" can be very arbitrary.

2) The word "day" has multiple meanings in Hebrew. BDB's Hebrew lexicon gives the following definitions:

1) day, time, year
  a) day (as opposed to night)
  b) day (24 hour period)
    1) as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1 1
    2) as a division of time
      a) a working day, a day's journey
  c) days, lifetime (pl.)
  d) time, period (general)
  e) year
  f) temporal references
    1) today
    2) yesterday
    3) tomorrow

From the above definitions, the highlighted one (d) is claimed by DACs to be the correct interpretation of the word yom. Other examples of yom as a long period include: Genesis 2:4, Genesis 30:14, Joshua 24:7, Proverbs 25:13, Isaiah 4:2, Zechariah 14:8 and references to "the day of the Lord."

3) The term "day" in Genesis is used before the sun and the moon were created or appeared (Gen. 1:5, 14-15.) 2; consequently, "day" does not refer to an Earthly day, because such a day does not yet exist.

4) The abstract use of "day" as an indefinite period of time is found in other mythological and religious writings of the Middle East to denote the passage of cosmic benchmarks in addition to referring to earthly time marked by the sun or the moon.

5) Early Hebrew was very scant in words referring to periods of time. There was no word in early Hebrew with the meaning the words "period" and "season." Therefore, if the author meant long creation days, he would have used the word yôm to refer to them. Rebuttal from Young Earth creationists: The above argument is a fallacy; there were other words that could have been used for long ages, if that is what the author had intended to communicate. [1] Yôm can indeed mean long age or unspecified time, but it is argued that only in special cases with a preposition is this possible. However, in the specific context of Genesis 1, the days are numbered and have "evening and morning", so they claim that they can mean only 24 hour days. Counterargument from DACs: There are other passages (such as Daniel 8:14, 26) that use "evening and morning" and yet apply to long periods of time. In the cited case, "yom" is referring to a prophecy to take place at an indefinite time in the future.

6) Genesis 2:4 uses the word "yom" to refer to the entire creation account, which is obviously not 24 hours long in total. Therefore, the word "yom" in Genesis 1 could also have a more abstract meaning.

“In the beginning” vs. “day” one[]

In some views, it is held that as Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” this would mean that the “heavens” (including the sun, the stars, all the planets as well as their respective moons) and the earth were created before the events stated in Genesis 1:3. This understanding allows for any amount of time necessary for the earth itself and the surrounding universe to be created, leaving the things created upon the earth - the events of “day” one through “day” six (described in verses 3 through 27) - to take place within a relatively shorter period of time, perhaps several millenniums (though evidently not 24-hour days). This view also allows the time described in verses 3 through 27 to be divided into six periods of equal length, with a seventh "day" of the same length following.

The Sabbath[]

YECs also claim that their view is the only one that makes sense of the Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8–11 (one of the passages containing the Ten Commandments), because the Sabbath cycle was set up in terms of 24-hour days.

Day-Age Creationists note that God makes use of the Sabbath “pattern” of 6 periods of work and one of rest with variations of the precise length of time depending on the subject. For example God’s command to work the land for six years and give it rest the seventh. The pattern originates with God’s creation acts but is transposed according to the context. See also: "Day" seven (below).

Luminaries on “day” four[]

It is also noted that in some views, God would have created plants an age before the sun (or 24 hours before in the case of YECs). This is sometimes countered with the explanation that the "light" from the first "day" or prior was gradually introduced, as may be indicated by translator J. W. Watts: “And gradually light came into existence.”

Another explanation is that the Sun was created on the first day, but the translucent layer of slight darkness (1:3) was not removed until the fourth day, rendering the Sun invisible but still with visible light during the first three days. Opponents argue that the text says that the sun was "made" (Hebrew ‘asah) in Gen. 1:16 not "appeared", while the Hebrew uses another word for "appear" (ra'ah), as when the dry land "appeared" as the waters gathered in one place on Day three (Genesis 1:9).

YECs also note that some Church Fathers and Reformers defended 24-hour days and provided explanations for light before God made the sun.[2]

Many DACs note that Gen 1:16 may not be placing the creation of luminaries within “day” four but only referencing their prior creation.

The events of “day” six[]

DACs also claim that the number of events that take place within “day” six are far too great to fit within a space of 24-hours. God makes livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals. Then He creates Adam, places him in a garden to “work it and take care of it”, and tells him not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God apparently walks with him, and brings him animals for companions (as it is not good for Man to be alone (he is presumably bored)). Adam then names all the animals and then grows bored with them. God then decides to create Eve, puts Adam into a deep sleep, removes a part of his side and forms Eve. Adam then meets Eve. At this point, many DACs claim that Adam’s response at his first sight of Eve in Genesis 2:23 ha pa'am is properly translated: "At long last this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (ha pa'am is merely pa‘am with the definite article added, so the ‘p’ is doubled). All of these events took place in the sixth “day” and DACs believe that the events seem quite crammed and don’t make sense from a Young-Earth perspective.

YECs believe that it is possible that the naming of the animals could have fit into a 24-hour day if Adam named "genera" of animals and spent hours of his first day doing nothing but name them. For example:

Scripture explicitly states that Adam named all the ‘livestock’ (Heb. behemah),the ‘birds of the air’ (Heb. op hassamayim) and all the ‘beasts of the field’ (Heb. chayyah hassadeh). There is no indication that Adam named the fish in the sea, or any other marine organisms, nor any of the insects, beetles or arachnids.[3]

Also, the “kinds” may be broader than the modern term "species".[4] So:

Assuming Adam had to name 2,500 proto-species (genera), and he named a single proto-species every five seconds, it would have taken him approximately three hours and forty-five minutes to complete the task if we include a five-minute break every hour.[5]

YECs also state that the interpretation of “ha pa’am” noted above is not supported by many translations such as the KJV, NKJV, NIV ,NASB or by other parts of the Bible. They state that the lexicons show that while pa'am has a variety of meanings, and is most often translated ‘time’, with the definite article it means ‘this time’. , This is illustrated by biblical usage:

  • Judges 6:39―Gideon says to God, ‘may I speak once more … let me make a test once more’. Both times, ‘once more’ is the NASB translation of happa‘am, but the second test is only 24 hours after his first test. The KJV has ‘but this once’.
  • Genesis 18:32―Abraham said to God, ‘I shall speak only this once’ (NASB); ‘I will speak yet but this once’ (KJV). Here, happa‘am is translated ‘this once’, and it is used at the end of a short dialogue about the coming destruction of Sodom.

DACs point out that the KJV, NKJV, NIV and NASB translate the passage "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" and the NRSV translates it as ‘This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" [6]

“Day” seven[]

Some Day-Age creationists note that all of the “days” end with the phrase “and the evening and the morning” except for the seventh day. They conclude that this indicates that the seventh day may not have ended and that we are still in God’s Sabbath rest from creation activities. It is often believed that this is indicated in passages such as Hebrews 4 and Psalm 95.

Most Young Earth creationists believe that God is resting from his creative works, but that the seventh day ended even without the closing phrase.

The Fall[]

Young Earth Creationists also argue that their position is the only way to explain the Fallen state of the world (the existence of death and suffering), which they believe originated purely from the fall of man. [7] They argue that long-age views entail death before Man’s sin. They also argue that physical death must be included in this, since God cursed mankind with returning to the dust (Gen. 3:19). And Saint Paul contrasted the death of Adam with the resurrection of the dead of the Last Adam, Jesus, which DACs agree was physical, so by analogy, Adam's death must have been as well.

Some Day-Age Creationists argue that only spiritual death was brought by the Fall, and that animals could have died prior, since the Pauline account was discussing human death only. It is said that if there was a physical component, God‘s curse condemned only Adam to return to the dust and didn't necessarily have anything to do with animal death.

Many YECs point to Gen. 1:30 as evidence of the general vegetarianism of animals when created and in the future (Is. 11 & 65).[8]

DACs argue that the Gen. 1:30 is referring to the fact that it is necessary to care for the green plants because of their importance to the entire food chain and not to the vegetarianism of all animals.

One approach some DACs take toward the problem of evil is to note that Satan already had access to this Universe before the fall of Adam and Eve. Some state that much of the “evil” present before the fall of Adam may be attributed to the fall of Satan. God’s work within creation was “good” and even “very good”, but He may have been creating in a Universe that was already exposed, to a certain extent, to a sort of spiritual warfare. Proponents of this view often see Adam and Eve under God's complete protection in The Garden prior to their fall, but exposed to the world around them after their rebellion from God.

General Revelation[]

There are may philosophical issues that are raised by the issues surrounding the nature of creation and God's revelation but one common notion which is raised is the trustworthiness of creation itself. Although many YECs don't adhere to the position that God is deceptive in His revelation, some espouse the position of "appearance of age" or Omphalos hypothesis, in which God creates the Universe/Earth to simply look old without being old. Biblical refutations of this position are seen by opponents of "appearance of age" (both old and young) in passages such as Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19:1-4. These passages are said to demonstrate that God has revealed truth in His creation.


1. While apparently Strong (ca 1890) or BDB (early 1900s) viewed "24 hour period" as the correct definition in Genesis 1, this is precisely what is at issue among other reputable scholars today. Their work is public domain (hence it's usage here) and widely used, but is by no means the definitive authority on such issues.

2. There is a difference of opinion on the precise order of creation within the Day-Age view itself. As stated in the "day four" section above, some DACs believe the sun and moon were created before the fourth day.

See also[]

External links[]

Further reading[]

  • Ross, Hugh, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, Navpress Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 1576833755
  • Sarfati, Jonathan, Refuting Compromise, Master Books, 2004, ISBN 0890514119 (YEC critique of the day-age theory and old-earth creationism)
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