Ancient Hebrew used far fewer words than modern English. That can cause misunderstandings when translated into English. For example, a term that has confused many people is the Hebrew word yom, commonly translated “day.”
The Genesis creation account uses the word in multiple ways. It is present in Genesis 1:1-13 in connection with “evening and morning.” Genesis 2:4 uses yom to refer to the entire creation “week.” In Deuteronomy 10:10, we find yom used twice with two meanings, a longer period of time (40 days) and the daylight hours. “And I stayed in the mount just like the first time (yom) 40 days (yom) and 40 nights …” We also see yom used to refer to long time periods such as in Hosea 6:2.
In the New Testament. Peter reminds us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day (2 Peter 3:8).” In Acts 1:7, Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power.” The context of that passage refers to restoring the kingdom, but the message carried throughout the scriptures is that God is in control of time.
Both creationists and atheists have often used the Hebrew word yom to make Earth’s age an issue, limiting what God can do or has done. God created time and is not limited by it. The “days” of Genesis may be 24 hours or some other time period. The creation verse in Genesis is verse one, “God created the heaven and the earth,” and it is undated and untimed.
Religious groups have done an injustice to the Genesis account by not recognizing the economy of language in scripture. Atheists have used that to destroy many people’s faith by showing evidence that the universe’s age is not measured in thousands of years. The message of Genesis is that God created everything, not when or how He did it. Taking the Bible literally is not taking a human theology and forcing it on the scriptures.
— John N. Clayton © 2021