|Was the world really created in 6 literal days?|
Seven days that divide the world.1 That’s what mathematician, philosopher of science and apologist John Lennox calls the biblical account of the first seven days of the universe. But why should that be? Compared to the text of Genesis 3 – the account of the Eve and the serpent, the account of the creation (Gen 1) is rather straight forward. Yet it appears there are more interpretations of the straight forward text of the first seven days than there are of the clearly more complex text of Eve and the fall.
Even so, the account of Eve and the serpent is not so difficult that it can’t be easily understood as I demonstrate in the previous post. Why then, is what appears to be the clear meaning of Genesis 3 not the understanding most bible believing commentators hold to today?2 Which got me to thinking of that question in context of our current section of Genesis 1 concerning the biblical creation account. Both the account of the creation and the account of the fall appear very clear and straight forward. Why then are there so many different understandings of what they mean? That is an important question to answer before looking at the account of the creation of the universe in 6 days.
Jesus asked a very similar question, and also gives us the answer:
Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
Why were they unable to hear? Because they had an agenda, and they were intent on carrying it out Jesus said. (John 8.44) And as we well know, having an agenda or a priori assumptions that cannot be changed creates boundaries that circumscribe what you will allow yourself to believe, locking out of consideration anything to the contrary.
The Hidden Agenda
What is the agenda behind people interpreting these two passages of scripture that make some so reluctant to accept the clear message of the text of one or the other (or both)? Interestingly enough it boils down to the same issue: a desire to either support, or remove support for the long ages needed for the bang bang and neo-Darwinian evolution. With regard to how to understand the serpent, a statement made by a Christian blogger3 who supports evolution and thus rejects much creation evidence makes this point crystal clear:
If we all agree that the serpent is metaphorical, why push for literalism elsewhere in the Creation account?4
He believes Genesis 3 is to be understood metaphorically. Note – I don’t agree that the serpent is metaphorical. But the fact that he believes we all agree it’s a metaphor is the key. He believes so strongly that everyone reads it metaphorically that he labels the topic the “hidden consensus.” Apparently, he is not the only one who thinks that understanding the serpent as a metaphor is a widespread belief based on the writings of many trying to counter that belief. Here’s why how Genesis 3 is understood is important: Because when he turns to Genesis 1 he can then push for a metaphorical understanding of the days of creation as he did for Genesis 3. Why is that important ? Where does that take you? When you use a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis 1, it takes you to all sorts of long age theories and a rejection of a literal 6 days creation that is clearly indicated in Genesis 1. As I noted, Mr. “truth problem” makes it clear on his site that he supports evolution.5 So a long age interpretation in support of evolution is his underlying agenda.
With that understanding of the underlying agendas of some, we now see at least one reason why a number of bible scholars, commentators and bloggers who hold to a young earth and recent creation want to emphasize a literal snake. They want to avoid having to defend against the charge of an ad hoq fallacy if they take Genesis 3 metaphorically, but Genesis 1 literally. So to maintain a strong case for taking Genesis 1 literally, they’re forced into a position that Genesis 3 is also literal with a literal, natural snake. Which is for the most part fine – it is literal narrative. There’s only one problem: in context, the serpent is clearly Satan. And thus they all arrive at the same solution: that the serpent is a literal snake possessed by Satan. My approach – “serpent” is a code word – solves the problem of susceptibility to an ad hoq fallacy charge by keeping the understanding of both texts as a literal one, without need to appeal to a metaphorical understanding of either. Mr. “truth problem “believes a metaphorical understanding is required to make sense of the text, but it is not. A literal interpretation with the understanding that code words are used explains well the talking serpent.6 (For what form Satan appeared in, see the previous article.)
What is a “code word”?
A code word is a technical term, a special word that points to a specific object or person. Like technical terms used in various fields of study, a code word has a specific meaning when used in specific situations, or contexts. Code words are common in various professions. For instance, to pilots the words “stall” and “attitude” are technical terms that mean something different than their usual meanings. To a pilot, a stall is not when an engine stops working; it’s when the wings stop producing enough lift to keep the plane flying. Likewise, “attitude” has nothing to do with how you express your feelings and thoughts. It expresses the orientation of the plane in space – how the plane is positioned in terms of yaw, pitch and roll. If a pilot said “he was in a nose high attitude and stalled the plane”, if you don’t understand the technical terms, you’ll miss what’s being communicated. That’s true wherever a technical term is used – including the Bible.
How is a Technical Term Different from a Metaphor?
Code words are different from metaphors in that they point to a specific item, and the meanings are typically given. Metaphors are general and can point to a number things. The meanings are typically not given. For instance we see a metaphor in Song of Solomon:
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. Song of Sol 1.15
What does “Your eyes are doves” refer to? It could be the color of the eyes, the beauty of the eyes; perhaps how they flutter like dove’s wings. It is unclear precisely what it refers to. It could be all of those, some of them, or some other set of qualities related to doves. That is typical of a metaphor. The precise meaning is not concisely conveyed. On the other hand a code word or technical term refers to one specific item that concisely identifies the idea being communicated.
Here’s another one7:
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5.24
What qualities of a river apply to justice? Or righteousness to a never-failing stream? I can think of many, but I will not belabor the point by enumerating them. Clearly metaphors convey multiple complementary ideas that may apply to the concept at hand without specifically narrowing the idea to one.
Code Words in Scripture
Unlike metaphors, code words refer to one specific, identified person or object. Code words in scripture are probably more common than you realize. Here are a few examples, which as noted above concisely identify specifically what is being communicated:
|Jeshurun||Israel (Deut 33.5; Is 44.2)|
|Oholah, and Oholibah||Samaria and Jerusalem respectively (Eze 23.4)|
|Sleep||Death (John 11.11-14; 1 Thess 4.13-14)|
|The Dragon||Satan (Rev 12.9)|
|The Serpent||Satan (Gen 3.14-15; Rev 12.9)|
|The Day of Preparation||Friday (John 19.31)|
|Saints||literally “holy ones” all those who belong to God (not just church elected ones) (Ps 16.30)|
There are others but you get the point.
Is “day” in the creation account a metaphor, or a code word?
Now that we understand what a metaphor and code words are, we can look at the text and see what better fits the context.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day. Gen 1.5
God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. Gen 1.8
And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. Gen 1.13
Above are the first 3 of 6 occurrences of “and there was evening, and there was morning…” Any preacher will tell you that when a phrase is repeated, it’s important. Here we have a phrase stated, then repeated 5 times – for a total of 6 appearances in this section. There must be a very important point here. What is it? It’s the definition of a technical term or code word. What’s the term? The code word is “day” and it is clearly defined as consisting of an evening and a morning. That is a normal 24 hour day. That is stated 6 times.
This is a key definition because many will tell you “day” can mean part of a day (as in the morning); or a time period as “in the days of…” (Est 1.1), or it can mean a regular, full day. That is true. What is not true is that you can choose which meaning fits based on what you want it to be. That is never true. Context determines meaning. Here, because the meaning is carefully given no less than 6 times(!) it clearly, unequivocally means a normally, 24 hour day.
When is the last time you squeezed a million, or billion years into an “evening and morning”? How can you possible squeeze an “age” of whatever period into “evening…and morning”? You cannot. And if hidden agendas were exposed we’d see the only reason people try to do so these days (you know what I mean) is to accommodate the false theories of evolution and the Big Bang.
Scholarly Attempts to Turn “Evening…and day” to Millions of years
Many scholars have been led astray by historical scientists (those who tell stories about the past; not those who do science which consists of performing tests to determine what’s true) who tell them the earth is 4.3 billion years old, and the universe is 13.7 billion years old. So given that, they try to squeeze those billions of years into the biblical account. Here’s a list of the common views of Genesis 1 as summarized by John Lennox8, to which I’ve added his own view as the last entry:
|The 24 hour view||The days are seven 24-hour days, of one earth week, about six thousand years ago.|
|The day-age View||The days are in chronological order, each representing a period of time of unspecified length.|
|The Framework View||The days exhibit a logical, rather than a Chronological order.|
|Creation days +
|The days are of normal length, but they are “separated by long periods of time.”|
The day-age view and the Framework view are not at all supported by the biblical text. As to the creation days + long ages theory that Lennox holds to, God clarified what he meant, and wrote it in stone. Let’s see if it fits.
In the Ten Commandments, God commands the observation of the Sabbath, and note his reason why:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20.9-11
God commands it as a remembrance of his original creation which was completed in six days. Note also the impossibility of making any sense of this command and its explanation with any other theory.
Day Age incompatibility – If each day is a long age (or includes a long age as Lennox suggests), how do we ever get to a Sabbath day? Or if the Sabbath is itself an age or million of years and we’re there now, do we ever leave it to get to the work week? How are we to hold to a 6 + 1 day work week if there are “long periods of time” anywhere in between each day? Thus no long age view – including Lennox’s own creation days + long ages view fit God’s plain restatement of what happened during the creation week.
Framework incompatibility – Nor does the Framework hypothesis makes any sense of keeping a work week followed by a day of rest. It also does not fit God’s restatement of the fact that he created the “heavens and the earth” (a merism meaning everything) in 6 days.
God intended (and still intends) for us to believe in a six day creation. He was so intent on it, that he carefully, unequivocally defined what “day” means; designed the flow of human life – the entire work week – around his six day creation; and wrote it in stone9 commanding us to remember it. If that is not enough to persuade you God meant what he said, then you have fallen into error of those who “nullify Gods law” (Matt 15.6) for the sake of the teachings of men (in this case the big bang and evolution). As Jesus said:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” Matt 15.8-9
Are you dishonoring God by putting the teachings of men above the clear word of God?
Duane Caldwell | posted 9/21 /2015 | printer friendly version
1 John Lennox, Seven Days That Divide The World, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011
2 see Duane Caldwell, A Talking Snake and the alien connection, 9/12/2015 https://rationalfaith.com/2015/09/a-talking-snake-and-the-alien-connection/
3 Who apparently wishes to remain anonymous, so I’ll reference by him by his site name: “truth problem” (http://thetruthproblem.info/ )
4 The Truth Problem, The Hidden Consensus – Reading Genesis Literally http://thetruthproblem.info/figurative.html accessed 9/17/2015
5 The Truth Problem, Creation & Evolution, a Case for Inclusivity, 2009, http://thetruthproblem.info/evolution.html It is unfortunate that Mr. Truth Problem – who chides Del Tackett and Focus on the Family on their series “The Truth Project” for not accurately representing a number of things about Christianity, Philosophy and Evolution correctly – does not himself accurately represent their statements concerning evolution; or the difference between the scriptural account of the creation of man and the evolutionary account of the origin of man. He states:
The problem is Del Tackett is right, and Mr. Truth Problem has misrepresented what the bible says about the creation of man via the fallacy of oversimplification. Tackett is referencing the common derogatory description of evolution – “from goo to you via the zoo”. This is clear from the context where Tackett describes the consequences of evolutionary thinking:
“If man is but a material beast, having nothing beyond the evolutionary cosmic particles, then what must we conclude about man?” The Truth Project, Tour 3, ~28.50
The “goo” is clearly the evolutionary “cosmic particles” (according to big bang/evolutionary theory we’re all made of star dust – the remains of exploded stars) and Tackett is poking a little fun at evolutionary theory. Perhaps that didn’t sit well with Mr. Truth Problem, but whatever the case, to state that the bible says the “goo to you” philosophy is taught in the Bible is to grossly misrepresent what the bible teaches. Once again we see the extremes evolutionary teaching pushes people to.
Disclosure: I comment on The Truth Project (Favorably) here.
6 Mr. “Truth problem” proposes the following Metaphorical Mode for understanding Genesis 3.
|Image||Underlying Historical Reality|
|Snake deceived mankind||Satan deceived mankind|
|Cursed above other animals||Cursed above other creatures|
|Condemned to slither||Power crippled|
|Will bruise people’s heels||Will attack the Messiah|
|Will be crushed by people||The Messiah will triumph|
There are a number of flaws in this understanding. Under his column heading “image”, the last two items, he takes the underlying word “seed” – singular (זרע – zerah) and makes it plural thus coming up with “people.” He has no justification from the text to do this – the word is singular – זרע (zerah) not זרעים (zeriym). The apostle Paul makes a similar distinction in Gal 3.16 He does this apparently to make a metaphorical understanding the preferred reading over a literal understanding. If you leave “seed” singular as the text specifies, the immediate question one wonders is “who is the seed”? Context dictates it is the messiah. This weakens if not destroys his whole case for a metaphorical understanding.
Following is the the same image data from above combined with my solution that – “serpent” is to be understood as a “code word” for Satan (Rev 12.9); the “seed” a code word for “messiah” (Gal 3.16) otherwise everything else is literal.
|Image||Underlying Historical Reality||Spiritual Lesson|
|Talking serpent||Satan masquerading as a snake||Satan is the deceiver|
|Serpent deceived Eve||Satan deceived Eve||Satan deceives mankind|
|Serpent cursed above other animals||Satan cursed above other creatures||Satan cursed above all creatures|
|Serpent Condemned to crawling on belly||Satan condemned to crawling (groveling) on the ground||Attractiveness removed, Fallen nature emphasized|
|The serpent will bruise the seed||Satan will bruise the Messiah (Future – not in days of Eden)||Tried to kill the Messiah|
|The seed will crush the head of the serpent||Messiah will crush Satan and destroy him. (Future – not in days of Eden)||Messiah cannot be killed, he was raised and Satan condemned to lake of fire|
7 No need to write in corrections – yes this is technically a simile, but what is a simile? A metaphor using “like” or “as”.
8 John Lennox, Seven Days That Divide The World, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, p. 44
9 We’re told God himself fashioned the tablets and wrote out the original 10 commandments (Ex 32.16) Moses subsequently broke the original tablets due to the people’s sin with the Golden Calf (Ex 32.19). Appropriately, the Lord made Moses chisel out the next set of stone tablets to replace the ones he broke, upon which God would again write the 10 commandments on. (Ex 34.1)
Image: Ten Commandments
[…] For a brief discussion on the Truth Problem site’s evolutionary views, see here 5. The “Truth problem” article a proposes Metaphorical Mode for understanding […]
Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together.
I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
But so what, it was still worthwhile!