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The Six Days of Creation

by Dr. Harry Rimmer

How many hours make a day? A simple question, but not apparently when it comes to the creation week of Genesis One! Many today wish to translate the days into ages, usually to accommodate the "findings" of modern science.

Dr. Rimmer (1890-1952) was an American pastor, conference speaker and prolific author: in 1919 he became a Presbyterian and for many years was Principal of the Research Science Bureau. The following message was Dr. Rimmer's reply to Dr. W.B. Riley of Minneapolis in a great debate.

Although Dr. Rimmer seems to heve been an advocate of the so-called "gap" theory, his arguments presented here in a slightly abridged form carry great weight and show how this question is bound up with the doctrine of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

This article was published in thePresbyterian Standard in two parts: Issue No. 4, October-December 1996, and Issue No. 5, January-March 1997.

M R. Moderator, Honoured Opponent, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Once I held the view that my honoured opponent advances here; that the days of creation in Genesis are periods of geological significance, and are aeons instead of solar days. Then I lent myself to a real study of the question, and became honestly convinced that the Genesis account is to be received as a literal week of time, seven days in extent, each day of twenty four hours duration.

It might be said I had an intellectual and mental conversion: and I am bold enough to suggest that when my worthy and honourable opponent has read my argument he might himself be converted from the error of his fallacious position! He will then accept what Moses undoubtedly intended to convey; the idea that creation was consummated in twenty-four-hour days, six in number. On the seventh solar day God ceased from His works, as all had by then been finished.

My honoured opponent seems proud of the fact that he has five lines of alleged and so-called proof; but the most careful examination of his argument seems to demonstrate only one thing: a man of brains and ability can make out a plausible case for any side of any question, regardless of the truth of the matter. But as for proof that the days of Genesis are literal ages, my friend has failed to advance any real evidence. Supposition and human opinion, even when that opinion is of the most scholarly is not evidence or proof, and the "five lines" seem to sort of fade out to a nebulous character upon thoughtful examination. But I do not need to remind you of this, you have already heard, or read, the Doctor's arguments.

Now, if there is any virtue in the number of lines of argument, and my dear opponent seeks to impress you with the fact of his five points, allow me to state that I will advance TWELVE lines of evidence to show that the days of Genesis arenot geological periods. I believe this is about the usual and logical balance of data: for every five arguments in favour of my opponent's side of the question, there are twelve on my side. So that in establishing my case it is not my ability or knowledge which will certainly win for me this debate: but the very evident fact that the vast preponderance of the evidence is on my side of the question!

Dr. Riley will find, I am afraid, that while he might reply successfully to certain of my proofs one at a time, when they are massed and presented as a group, they are invincible. I am reminded of the little boy who whittled a shingle (thin wooden slat) into a paddle, and went down to the pasture to swat bumble bees. In the course of the morning he successfully disposed of a dozen or more, and was highly elated. An hour after lunch he set out to show his big brother how the trick was done. The first bumble bee they found was starting down into a hole, and the youngster said, "Now watch me swat him." The older brother advised against it, but in spite of this advice the youngster waited until the bumble bee was coming out of the hole, and hit it a most glorious and enthusiastic wallop. Alas! he did finish that individual bee, but there were more in the hole, and they came out in a hurry. The boy fled, but not fast enough; and when his older brother saw his swollen countenance an hour later, he laughed and said: "I thought you were the fellow who could handle bumble bees. I thought you said you killed more than a dozen this morning." The little fellow replied, "I did. But these fellows were different; they were organized and hung together." I am afraid that my revered opponent will find he is badly stung, when he grabs hold of the business end of these twelve lines of real evidence and convincing proof. The argument in the aggregate is so convincing my friendly enemy here will probably be converted; if not, at least I will have the satisfaction of seeing the thinking part of this audience voting for my side of the question.

In demonstrating that the days of creation in Genesis are literal solar days, I will present as my FIRST ARGUMENT the meaning of the word yom.

Dr. Riley is right when he says that this word, in the Hebrew language has many varieties of meaning. He is also right when he says its meaning is sometimes an indefinite period of time: but he then proceeds to argue from this true premise to a false conclusion; that is, because the word sometimes means an indefinite period it cannot mean a solar day in Genesis the first chapter. That this is a fallacy we see at a glance, when we note some of the instances where yom is a time period indefinite in extent. A clear case of this kind is in Genesis 30:11, where Moses writes:

"And it came to passabout this time (yom ) that Joseph entered the house about his business..."

Here the wordyom is translated "time," and the context, "about this" shows that the time element is indefinite in this case. Again we read in Genesis 4:3:

"And it came to passin process of time (yom ) that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord."

Here again the context shows by the words "in process of" thatyom is to be translated as an indefinite period. The same is seen again in Genesis 26:8, in Leviticus 20:15, and in many other references too numerous to mention. But in every instance where yomis to be rendered as an indefinite period the context clearly shows this to be the case! This is the established rule in this matter: the context shows if the wordyom is other than a definite time period. Now in the seven says of the Genesis creation account, the context not only fails to show that the time element is indefinite, but on the contrary clearly demands a fixed, or solar day limit!

The SECOND ARGUMENT to consider is that the vast majority of cases where the wordyom appears in the Hebrew text demand translation into the equivalent word, day.

The wordyom appears in the Hebrew text 1480 times, and is translatedday 1181 times in the English Bible. This then establishes the general rule for the guidance of the investigator; the wordyom is to be renderedday, unless the context holds some reason and authority for translating it otherwise. But please note that the authority is to be found in the text, not in the writings and ideas of some geologist who came on the scene some thousands of years after Moses had finished writing this Scripture by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!

By this rule of translation, then, we are obliged to accept the days of Genesis in the account of creation as solar days, literally as we understand the word day in our own language. There is no textual evidence, or warrant, for departing from the meaning of the word that is established by a vast preponderance of cases.

The THIRD ARGUMENT , and one that will cause my esteemed opponent some grave worry before he answers it, is the fact that there is a rule of Hebrew that is invariably followed in the sacred text: wherever the word yom is preceded by a numerical article we are forced to accept it as a literal day.

There is abundant evidence of this, and out of the scores of references we might advance, we quote only these: Genesis 7:10:

"And it came to pass after seven days (yom ) that the waters of the flood were upon the earth."

The presence of the numerical article, seven, denotes the fact that these days were literal solar days, of some twenty four hours each. Again, in Genesis 8:4, we read:

"And the ark rested in the seventh month on the seventeenth day (yom ) of the month, on the mountain of Ararat."

Here the presence of the numerical article, seventeenth, shows beyond the shadow of doubt or the possibility of controversy that it was a literal solar day which is intended. We see the same thing illustrated in Genesis 8:10:

"And he stayed yet other seven days (yom ) and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark."

The presence of the numerical article, seven, here makes it imperative that we accept these sevenyoms as literal days, as we understand that word in our English speech today. It is not necessary to multiply these instances indefinitely, but many scores of cases can be shown where this rule is faithfully followed: the presence of the numerical article shows that the day is a literal solar day. All these references that we have given, and many others more that could be given, are from this same book of Genesis, and from the pen of the same Moses who tells the story of creation in six periods, called days. What does Moses mean by the word day as used in this creation account? There can be no question here: he prefixes the word in each case with the definite numerical article, and it is absolute violence to every rule of translation and interpretation to call the days so designated anything but solar days. Thus we have the clear statement: "And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day."

This phrase is repeated again and again, with only the article changed; Day one, second day, third day, and so on through the seven days. The appearance of the number in each case demands that we accept it as a day of literal meaning, that is, twenty four hours.

My learned opponent admits the strength of my case here, and the weakness of his own, when he seeks to confuse the issue by quoting a text from the Greek of the New Testament (!) to refute a rule of translation and interpretation from the Hebrew of the Old Testament! The many debates he has had on evolution have taught him at least one thing: he learned this method from his enemies! But we have heard him skin those enemies too many times for these same tactics, to let him get away with it here and now; and we call him back to "taw" and tell him to "knuckle down" and stick to the Hebrew for Old Testament philology! Indeed, the Greek text does say that there is a day that is to the earth as a thousand years: but the entire context of the third chapter of Second Peter tells us that day is the day of judgement that is to come on the earth. It does not say in the Greek that all God's days are a thousand years long: if they are, my eminent opponent has knocked his own case into a cocked hat: for he contends that these "days" were tens of thousands of years long, and then quotes Peter to show that they are only one thousand years in duration. The fact remains, however, that Peter is talking of the day when God's wrath is poured out, and he is not talking of the days of creation. We wish to remind our hearers once more, that in theHebrew, in which Moses wrote this account, the numbers, connected with the day, is a textual demand that the literal solar day be accepted.

The FOURTH ARGUMENT ably answers the quibble of my respected opponent: that the rays of the sun had not reached the earth until the fourth day.

That is granted: but what has it to do with the matter of the time element in the first chapter of Genesis? On this very day, even while I am writing this paper, the snow is swirling through the atmosphere, and right here in Minneapolis the rays of the sun have not reached the earth for the entire twelve hours of daylight. True, the light has been feeble and grey, and I have reinforced it with the aid of the electric bulb, which I have been forced to keep burning all day: but it has been a day just the same!

What is it that makes a day? Dr. Riley is under the infantile error that it is the shining of the sun. Not at all: a day is the diurnal revolution of the earth on its axis. Out in space the sun is shining, whether we see it or not, and the earth is spinning in the face of that sun at such a rate of speed it turns every longitudinal plane of its surface to the sun's direction once every twenty four hours for convenience sake; but a solar day is nothing more or less that the time it takes the earth to make one complete revolution on its axis. Whether the sun is visible during that time, or no, has nothing to do with the question: the time consumed in the complete revolution of the earth is what constitutes the "day."...

...In the "Land of the Midnight Sun" six weeks go by, and the sun is never seen. Midnight blackness covers the land for six weeks: the sun's rays do not reach that section of the globe, but forty two days go by nevertheless: why not three such in the first week of time? Age after age, the earth has revolved in Stygian blackness, and darkness and gloom have hidden Earth's face from the light of the sun. Now the voice of God is heard, and while the flaming beauty of the sunrise and the sunset is absent, yet the black pall is relieved by the influence of the sun that is as yet unseen, and the pale light of Creation's first day prevails where impenetrable darkness long has reigned. This condition prevails for the first three days, or revolutions of the earth on its axis, then the command of God is once more heard, and the planet is freed entirely from the fog and vapour that have so long obscured the light of the sun. Spinning in its ceaseless motion, as it long had been accustomed to move, the earth suddenly is gladdened by its first sunrise. Brighter and warmer beams the beauty of the direct days that now for the first time shine upon the globe, and in a flaming burst of splendour they finally fade below the horizon, testifying with their colour and glory that a new order has been established. But the diurnal revolution of the earth has not been changed: and the reason the sun faded from sight on the Fourth Day was because the earth kept right on turning, as it had the first three days, and aeons before these days began. This argument of my beloved opponent should be dealt with in the spirit of charity we accord all feeble and tottering things; the next time you live a day or a week through the rain or fog, and do not see the sun's direct rays, take Dr. Riley's authority and say they are not days. Your landlord, however, may insist on collecting rent for every time the earth makes a complete revolution on its axis, whether the sun is visible or not. And if Dr. Riley owns and rents property, he will do the same.

ARGUMENT NUMBER FIVE is even more forceful and unanswerable than this. In the accounts of the various acts of creation in this week, the wording of the text in each case is such as to demand instantaneity.

It may be argued from the English translation, that a time-period is possible in the meaning of the word day, but the Hebrew Text is emphatically the reverse. As an instance, on the first day the text says:

"And God said,ye hi or, wa ye hi or !"

There is no absolute literal translation from the Hebrew into the English of this phrase, but the nearest we can come to it is perhaps:

"And God said, Light, exist: and light existed!"

The entire phrase is one of instant, absolute obedience to a pressing command, and implies an act consummated in the instant of its inception. Here, on this day, more than on any other perhaps, the era theory of my esteemed opponent appears extremely ridiculous. Why in the name of common sense should it take the Omnipotent Creator five hundred thousand years to receive a response to His command, "let light be!"? Especially when the text may be transliterated "Then God said 'let light be!' and light was!" Did it take God a half million years to speak this sentence, or was the light slow to obey? Or did it come at once, and God then waited five hundred milleniums before he started any further activity? Truly the proponents of the age theory are like those of old who strained out a gnat and swallowed the camel!

Our SIXTH POINT is that the aeon theory is founded on the fallacy that God could not accomplish all the marvellous works of each "day" in the short period of twenty four hours; and that even He needed more time to accomplish the events of each day.

To help Him out, we are asked to accord Him the Geological crutch for His aid. Indeed, my friendly opponent in this debate implies as much, if he does not say so outright, when he infers that the vast events of the creative days are too stupendous for one solar day, but possible to a geological age. This, his peculiar argument, does not apply with its implication of limitation, to the God Whom I recognize as the Creator: "He speaks, and things are done; He commands, and the hills are formed." I most emphatically challenge the eminent Doctor whose enthusiasm and unquenchable Irish spirit have led him into defending the wrong side of this question to answer simply and boldly this question, "Could God have accomplished the events of any one of the six days in a period of twenty four hours?"

When he replies in the affirmative, as he indeed must, he will then have spoiled his case for the time-factor of ages and ages for each day, by the concession of all we contend. For God, twenty four hours was enough! Indeed for Him twenty four minutes was more than ample for the work of each day. But, as He in the beginning established the rate and speed of the diurnal revolution, as twenty four hours, what more natural than that He should conform to the order He Himself had established?

Our SEVENTH CONTENTION is a refutation of the great stronghold of the "era-ists."

This is the profusion of fossil records, attesting to the vast amount of life in ages past. It is contended by the proponents of this era theory that each rock system contains too vast a number of individuals to admit they came in twenty four hour creation. We, however, who are content to accept the simple fact of the Mosaic intention, that these days were solar in duration, do not contend that the vast numbers of individuals all came on the day that saw the birth of their order, but only that the original ancestral pair of each kind were created on that day. We do not say that in twenty four hours God covered the entire earth with pine forests in their present profusion, with wild ducks by the millions, with humans by the myriads; but only that on each day in which a certain work is done the origin of beginning of that kind is recorded. There has been plenty of time since for the natural reproduction of the innumerable progeny of animal, plant, fish, bird, reptile, insect and human kinds, and for the fossilisation of some of them as well. My respected opponent has elsewhere contended that many of the fossils may have been formed at the time of the flood of Noah; well, there was plenty of time between Adam and the age of Noah for this multitudinous life to have developed. Indeed, this was the literal command of God in the day He created them:

"Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth."

The EIGHTH REASON we accept the solar duration of the days of Genesis is the apparent fact that Moses' clear intention was to convey the twenty four hour idea.

The wildest flights of my honourable opponents fancy (and some of them are wild!) cannot go as far as to say that Moses intended to convey the modern geological idea of aeons in each day of creation. This is an idea born of science that came long after Moses, and he, in his simplicity penned the words of God with the evident intention of conveying the accepted idea of a day as we know it. If, then, we try toread into the Mosaic account theories and ideas Moses never intended to express, are we not liable to the charge that we are "wise above what is written," and are we not in a very definite sense "adding to" the sacred record? All the ancient fathers of Israel accepted the text of Moses as being solar days, and it was not until the Church Fathers became enamoured of the new Grecian philosophy that any suggestion of an aeon, or era, or geological age was read into the text.

REASON NUMBER NINE goes right to the heart of the controversy: we are in favour of the solar idea because any other theory is merely a concession to the time element demanded by the evolution school of geology; and why should we concede them anything from the Scripture?

They are itsirreconcilable enemies, and their programme does not call for reconciliation with the Scriptures, but rather eradication of the Scriptures. This theory was born to uphold the contentions of the enemies of the Bible, and we owe them no consideration in the matter. Now, since the evolutionary geologists have been so uniformly mistaken in their every other contention, why should we assume that they are right here, and yield a concession in the time element that they so glibly demand? They do indeed "carry their quiver full of aeons:" why should we stock them still further, and load their quivers with darts to be cast at us? The children of God do not need to borrow ideas from the sons of the world: the Book of God needs no interpreters from among the ranks of its enemies. So we stick to the idea of the writer, Moses, that creation was finished in six days, and concede evolutionary geological theories nothing in the matter of aeons.

The TENTH ARGUMENT we advance is the evident fact that the days of Genesis are solar days, as they follow the general Hebrew custom of dividing the day into evening, the beginning, and morning, the start of the daylight period.

This is without exception the method Moses used in each of the six days of Genesis. He defines them each as a day with an evening and a morning. Now we gleefully challenge our erudite and esteemed temporary opponent to give us a verse in the Hebrew text where a geological age is thus described, "And there was evening, and there was morning, one geological age." Even the scholarly gentleman who debates this question with us will admit the impossibility of that: the evening and morning exclude any other interpretation but that of a solar day.

Indeed, the entire body of Scripture reference supports this solar idea of the creative days to the exclusion of any other idea. Let us note, as an instance, the sixth day and the seventh. On the sixth day Adam was created, and on the seventh day God rested. Which "day" are we now, the sixth, or the seventh? If the sixth day was a geological age long and we are in the seventh day (and the text tells us it has already followed the sixth day), then it has been at least five hundred thousand years since Adam. And Adam lived over from one geological age to another, since he was alive and cast out of Eden after the seventh day of God's rest, thus establishing a record for longevity that beats Methuselah all hollow!

Another Scripture reference that should settle the matter, and would, if my dear opponent were not [an idiot], is the quotation in Hebrews 4:4, where the inspired writer refers directly and specifically to this seventh day in the book of Genesis. The reference reads:

"For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day in this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."

In the Greek text of the New Testament this word is "hemera," and it always means solar day. If the days of Genesis are aeons, why did the inspired writer of the New Testament call them "hemera" (solar days) instead of "aeons" (ages, or eras)?

ARGUMENT NUMBER ELEVEN is the fact that Moses, the same man who penned the account of creation, is the same writer who makes a comment on this creative week, inspired so to do by God Himself, in the twentieth chapter of Exodus.

In giving the Law on Mt. Sinai, God speaks through Moses, and Moses merely reports God's words when He says:

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God; In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: therefore Jehovah blessed the seventh day and hallowed it."

Here, then, is the reason the Jews were to observe the seventh day: God rested on that day.Are the Jews to work six geological ages and rest the seventh geological age? Such a contention is silly! The plain words of the text say, "Work six days and rest one day." Why? Because God did that and the Jew was to commemorate His finished work. Why twist this entire paragraph out of its evident meaning, and make Moses to say, "Six days shalt thou labour, and on the seventh rest, because God worked six geological ages, and rested one geological age!" Moses used the same word for the six days of God's work as for the six days the Jews were to work: he used the same word for the seventh day of rest as he did for the time span that God is said to have rested. Why cannot we accept the plain statement of the text, and rest content therein?

The TWELFTH AND FINAL ARGUMENT is taken from the quiver of our now-enlightened opponent and turned against him for his final defeat. He contends that the geological-age theory for each day is the most reasonable: let us examine just one of those days and see if this is so.

On the third day of creation three stupendous works are wrought, that only the Almighty could perform. The ocean is formed: the dry land appears: and botany is born! This third day is characterised, as are all the others, by evening and morning. Now, if the rays of the sun did not reach the planet until the fourth day, if this was a geological day, the vast world of botany lived half that age in absolute darkness, and the other half in what my eminent opponent calls "a pale cosmic gleam"; and between the half of the age that was dark, and the half that had some kind of light from the first day source, these plants lived some five hundred thousand years without any direct rays of the sun to nurture them. And yet my most distinguished opponent was raised on a farm! I will leave this argument to any farmer or horticulturist in America; could the plants have survived an entire geological age, of some half million years, with no sunshine at all? They could have easily survived, on the other hand, if the days were solar days in duration: many green plants have to last through several days of cloud and fog without the direct rays of the sun. But the thought implied, nay, demanded, by the era school, that the plants grew, matured, bore fruit and seeds and reproduced their kind through a half million years of no sunshine will not hold water. And then think of the chaos in the world of botany on the fourth day, which is also divided into two periods of light and dark, the evening and the morning. Two hundred and fifty thousand years of sunshine when the sun appears, then two hundred and fifty thousand years of darkness when the evening lasted, and the plants survived. If this "reasoning" establishes the theory of geological ages for the days of creation, it is the reasoning of the mad house, and not of sane and sober students of the Word of God.