|The divine comedy|
Day-age creationism is an exegetical approach to reading the Genesis 1:1-1:23 according to a literal framework. It is an attempt to shoehorn the biblical myth into something resembling scientific fact. Day-age creationists believe that God created the universe in six days (Hebrew: "יוֹם", yom), but they also believe that there has been a consistent mistranslation of yom which should be read as "era", and not "24-hour, solar day". This stands in contrast to Young Earth creationists who hold that the yom in question is necessarily a 24-hour period.
The Day-Age and Framework approaches are utilized by Old Earth creationists, who both accept an age of the Earth that is consistent with scientific evidence (about 4.54 billion years) and read the Genesis creation story literally.
New Testament justification
“”With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
|—2 Peter 3:8|
This verse alludes to Psalm 90:4, another verse said to explain how God exists outside of time. These verses are sometimes used as justification that the "days" mentioned in Genesis chapter 1 could have been much, much longer spans of time. (It's not very convincing when contrasted with the "evening came and morning" that describes the passage of each day, though.)
Biblical Hebrew text
“”And there was evening, and there was morning— Era First
The Hebrew story of the creation of the universe divides the work involved in the development into 6 "days" and appends one final day for rest. The term used for these units of time in B'reishit 1:1-1:26 is "יוֹם", yom. The word yom occurs over 2000 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and careful analysis suggests that it expresses a semantic range surprisingly similar to that associated with the English word "day". Like "day", it can mean a period of approximately 24 hours (from sunset to sunset, for example).[note 1] But it can also mean the sunny part of that period ("day" vs. "night"). But more importantly to this argument, it can mean a period of time, an interval when a single theme dominated the era - compare: "in the days of King Judah", "back in the day", or "days long gone". Old-Earth creationists use this more abstract sense of "era" to find a continuity between their religion and science while still reading the Bible literally.
YEC and OEC conflict
The day-age approach is rejected by Young Earth creationists, whose more direct approach to Biblical literalism leads to a reading of yom as referring to literal 24-hour days.
In attempting to challenge the view of "yom" as "era", Young Earth creationists typically address several things.
- Day means day, not prior or era. This argument tends to fall on its face, since even the English word "day" has a variety of meanings.
- There are other words for 'period of time', but these were not chosen. This argument is difficult for either side to maintain, since it forces you to read the minds of the writers, to understand why one term is used and not another. Of course, it is in effect the exact same argument Old-Earth types are using when they say yom means period.
- Yom is followed by an ordinal (First, Second, Third), which is only done when yom means day. Unfortunately for Young Earthers, this too is flatly incorrect. Throughout the Bible, "yom" is also associated with ordinals to indicate periods of time under particular kings, periods of time under the lawlessness of exile, etc., e.g. periods of time substantially longer than a single 24-hour day. It is also incorrect, because it is not clear that the distinction between ordinal and cardinal in ancient Hebrew was followed consistently.
- The Hebrew text states "Evening and morning, One Day" in pattern and days have evening and mornings, "eras" do not. The counter to this tends to be that Eras are described as beginning and ending, and that morning and evening frame the period of time.
- There are six literal days of work symbolising the six "days" of creation followed by the Sabbath rest, also one day long clearly suggesting the days mentioned in creation are literal days rather than figurative days. The response is that the week as we know it was framed after God's week, and does not point to, nor require, literal 24-hour days. In addition, the Bible never mentions "evening and morning" for the seventh day.
Neither side has any compelling linguistic or contextual analysis that would make the other side obviously inaccurate. The fact is, without a time machine to find out the intent of the writer on something so poetic and abstract as the creation of the universe, this debate will continue.
Jews and Christians who attempt to read the Bible in a literal manner generally accept the approach that better fits into their own personal view of their religion and how they reconcile it (or don't) with science, but neither the YEC nor the OEC approach is able to reconcile the existence of the two contradictory creation stories in Genesis.
Issues with science
A created Earth, as defined by Genesis, has problems reconciling with science regardless of the length of days, so all the Old Earthers have truly obtained is one fewer conflict - that of the age of the earth itself.
As explained in the article Young Earth creationism, there are a variety of problems of a literal creation, even if it did take a "long time" to make the Earth:
- Heavy elements found in rocks and also the oxygen in water were synthesized in supernovae, therefore land and water could not be created before the stars were created.
- The separation between night and day happened after the Solar System had formed when the sun was shining and the earth was rotating. In Genesis the separation between light and darkness happens on the first day and there is a succession of days thereafter.
- Seeds, grasses, plants are created before the Sun is created. One supposes if it's a 24-hour creation, a plant could survive without light, but not if it's an entire "era".
- The Sun and the Moon and stars exist only to be signs of seasons, and do not truly provide their own value (like the blinding heat of the Sun, or the radiation that both harms and aids in evolution).
- If we take "the greater light" made on day four as the Sun (Genesis 1:16-19), no known consistent physical yardstick operates beforehand to determine the length of "days" one to three.
- The Moon is identified as a light source on its own, and that it's a light for the night (when in fact it's often out during the day instead of at night).
- God creates birds before insects or other earth-based animal life.
- 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe, and counter arguments for each "evidence".
- Bearing in mind that until modern times everyone defined an "hour" as a fraction of a day - and that sort of day would vary in length between (say) summer and winter.