The Hexaemeron and The Day-Age Theory

Joe Wright
February 1, 1993

Evolutionism has made great advances in the modern world, going from an upstart biological theory to an all-pervading world view within the space of a century. Although the mechanisms popularized by Darwin have been proven false, the theory is stronger than ever. The view that all things move naturally from lesser complexity to greater has taken over almost every field, from biology to astronomy to the social sciences. Although scientists cannot prove that grand scale evolution exists and does not contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics, many nevertheless claim that evolution is a scientific fact. This claim has been repeated so often that many now believe it without ever questioning it.

This poses a problem for theology. The Bible presents a universe created by God in six days. Modern science presents a universe which has come into being gradually over approximately fifteen billion years. The Genesis account then becomes merely another myth which joins all the other creation myths of the world. Strict evolutionism even denies the existence of God altogether:

It was Woolsey Teller, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, who said: "The God idea cannot be reconciled with our knowledge of evolution." Charles Smith, also former president of the same organization, was the one who stated emphatically: "Evolution is atheism" (Thompson 223).
It is not within the scope of this paper to deal with all the issues surrounding this subject. Rather, this paper will deal with one particular aspect: the conflict between the Bible's "young" universe and the "old" universe of modern science. Thisconflict poses a problem especially for those who do not wish to accept the atheism of pure evolutionism, yet do not wish to deny the claims of modern science. The evolutionary viewpoint has become so pervasive that many feel the need to try to reconcile it with the creation account given in Genesis. If one doesn't worry about the issue too much, it really is not much problem--evolutionism is true, and so is the Bible. This view, theistic evolution, is very widespread in the church. It says, "Religion and science are not in conflict. Religion talks about the "who," the creator; science talks about the "how" (About Being Lutheran 4).

One must still find a way to work approximately fifteen billion years into the first chapter of Genesis. One way of doing this is to claim that the early chapters of Genesis are only poetry or myth, not intended to provide a literal account. However, this immediately opens all the rest of the Bible to the same approach. Any part of the Bible can be dismissed with this approach. Some therefore want to keep the Genesis account but still fit in the billions of years claimed by science. One popular way of accomplishing this is the Day-Age Theory. The Day-Age Theory holds that the first six days of creation were not literally 24-hour days, but instead were long periods of time. The purpose of this paper is to show that this view is false and without Scriptural support.

The foundation of the Day-Age Theory is the assertion that the word "day" in Genesis 1 can mean "a long period of time." The only problem is that this never happens anywhere else in Scripture. The word used for day in the Hebrew is ywm. Koehler-Baumgartner gives the following definitions for ywm:

1. day, bright daylight;
2. day (of 24 hours);
3. special days (i.e. day of adversity, day of disaster);
4. Yahwae's day;
5. Plural of day (i.e. seven days);
6. Plural of day (age of life);
7. Plural of day referring to a month or year;
8. Dual;
9. With the article, 'that day';
10. With a preposition such as b, 'on the day', 'when';

Brown-Driver-Briggs gives the following definitions for the word ywm:

1. day, opposite of night;
2. day, as a division of time:
     a. working-day;
     b. drk ywm a day's journey;
     c. to denote duration of various other acts or states;
     d. day as defined by evening and morning;
     e. day of month (with ordinal numeral);
     f. ywm defined by substantive, infinitive, or other clause;
     g. particular days defined by proper name of place;
     h. your, his, or their day, in the sense of day of disaster or death;
3. day of Yahweh;
4. days of someone = age of life;
5. days:
     a. indefinite: some days, a few days;
     b. of a long time: 'many days';
     c. days of old: former or ancient times;
6. time:
     a. vividly in general sense as in 'time of harvest';
     b. used in apposition to other expressions of time, such as 'month of days';
7. various phrases with and without prepositions;

The word ywm is used very often in the Hebrew Old Testament and has very many different meanings and shades of meaning. From this survey of the standard lexicons, however, we see that ywm in the singular never has a meaning such as "a long period of time," especially considering the amount of time the Day-Age Theory wants ywm to represent! Also, if Moses had intended to express the idea of long periods of time, there were other words he could have used, such as `wlm, "a long time, forever." Normal usage of the word ywm does not permit the word to represent long periods of time as asserted by the Day-Age Theory.

The use of ywm to represent "a long time" also lacks contextual support. Nothing in the context of Genesis 1 shows that ywm means anything other than a normal solar day. Nothing indicates that the word is to be understood poetically or metaphorically. Rather, the numbering of the days of creation in Genesis would indicate the opposite--the word ywm is to be understood in the normal, historical sense. When ywm is used with an ordinal number in the Old Testament, it always indicates a normal solar day. It simply is never used any other way in the Old Testament (Thompson 141).

Genesis 1:3 defines "day" as a period of light and dark, and these are named "morning" and "evening." In normal usage, the sequence of evening and morning was always used to refer to a standard solar day. The Day-Age Theory would change that, for if "day" means a long period of time, then "night", "morning" and "evening" also would be very long periods of light and darkness. This goes strongly against the common usage of the words. Rather, Genesis 1:5 closely connects the terms "light" and "day", and "darkness" and "night", and further connects these with "morning" and "evening". To see this as anything but a clear description of a solar day is to ignore the clear meanings of the words used andthe connections established between them.

Genesis 1:14 speaks of the creation of the "lights in the expanse of the sky" and gives their purpose: to "serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years." The term "day" representing a long period of time would not make any sense in this phrase. Rather the "days" mentioned in the phrase seem to be normal solar days--yet there is no indication that the meaning has changed. The Day-Age interpreter must juggle word meanings in this verse, yet has no warrant to do so. Nothing in the immediate context of Genesis 1 suggests that the term ywm represents anything other than a normal solar day in the creation account.

The Day-Age Theory also lacks scriptural support. The passages commonly used to support the theory actually do not support it. Those passages are:

Psalms 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

The problem is that these verses to not equate "a day" with "a thousand years." Even if they did, the Day-Agers would still have a problem--the Hexaemeron would be six thousand years long, far short of the billions of years required by evolution.

This problem could be solved by saying that the verses do not set up definite equations but rather show that to God a day is like a long period of time. Thus, the term "day" in Genesis 1 can also mean "a long period of time." However, this can only be assertedby ignoring standard use of the word ywm and by taking the verses out of context. In their context the verses do not provide a key for unlocking the mystery of ywm in Genesis 1 or give warrant to interpret it as figurative language. Rather, in their context the verses are speaking of God's eternity and the fact that he does not experience time as human beings experience it.

The Day-Age Theory lacks support from the scientific theory which it attempts to reconcile with the Bible. First, the Bible's order of creation differs from that of evolutionism. For example, according to Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth even before he created light. However, this disagrees with the Big Bang theory. According to the this theory, light came first. It had to come first, because at beginning of the universe the ambient temperature of the universe itself was far too hot (around ten trillion degrees) to allow matter to form at all (Hawking 117-118). According to evolutionism, the Bible is wrong at the very beginning.

That is only the first "mistake" the Bible makes. According to astronomy, the earth could not have come before the stars and the sun itself. Modern cosmology asserts that several previous generations of other stars had to live out their lives and be "recycled" before the sun and earth could come into existence with the necessary elements to support life. At best the earth came into existence at the same time as the sun, long after the first stars had been long gone. According to the Bible, though, the earth was created before the sun, moon, or other stars. This isanother contradiction between the Bible and the evolutionary system the Day-Age Theory wants to accept.

The problems continue. According to Genesis 1:11-12, all plants, trees, and vegetation were created on the third day. However, the sun was not created until the fourth. How did these plants survive millions of years without light? Even if they survived by the "light" of "day," they still could not have survived the millions of years of darkness during the "night." Also, some plants only reproduce by pollination by insects. However, the insects they needed to reproduce were not created until the fifth or sixth day. If the days of the creation account were actually millions or billions of years long, how did these plants survive until the insects came along (Thompson 150)?

The death blow to the long ages of the Day-Age Theory is dealt by Adam himself, though. Adam was created on the sixth day, according to Genesis 1:26-27. If the days of Genesis 1 were really ages millions or billions of years in length, then Adam had to live at least a few million years during the sixth day alone. However, Genesis 5:5 tells us that Adam only "lived 930 years, and then he died." The sixth day could not have lasted for the millions of years postulated by the Day-Age Theory. The only way around this is to give variable durations to the days of Genesis 1. Evolutionary theory would require many billions of years for the first days, then maybe only millions for the later days. However, this is no more supported by the usage of ywm than is the idea of "standard" lengths of millions/billions of years.

The Day-Age theory, though it sounds good as a generalization, really cannot stand. Its contention that the days of the creation account each really represent millions or billions of years cannot be supported either by usage of the word ywm or by the Bible itself. Its desire to mesh the Bible's order of creation with the order of evolution is thwarted by numerous disagreements between the two orders. The only possible solution to this dilemma would be either to abandon the evolutionary theory or to give up the idea that the Bible means what it says, labeling its first chapters "poetry," "symbolism," or even "myth." Unfortunately, since the theories of modern science are believed to be proven facts, it is the Bible which often suffers. However, if we are to be true to the Bible itself and the account it gives, we must not base our faith on the theories of science and force the Bible to fit its ideas. Rather, we allow God to speak for himself through his Word, and subject all our learning and understanding to what God himself tells us, although it may disagree with the current "wisdom" of this world.


About Being Lutheran. South Deerfield, MA: Channing L. Bete Co., Inc., 1974.

Brown, Francis, et al. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1979.

Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time. New York: Bantam, 1988.

Koehler, Ludwig, and William Baumgartner. Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1958.

Thompson, Bert. Theistic Evolution. Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House, Inc., 1977.

Other Sources

Burnham, Robert Jr. Burnham's Celestial Handbook, v1. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1978.

DeYoung, Donald B. Astronomy and the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989.

Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978.

Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics, v1. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1950.

Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980.

Young, E.J. In the Beginning. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976.