Copyright © 1963 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS
EDWARD J. YOUNG
"WE do not read in the Gospel", declared Augustine,
"that the Lord said, ‘I send to you the Paraclete who
will teach you about the course of the sun and the moon’;
for he wanted to make Christians, not mathematicians".1
Commenting on these words, Bavinck remarked that when
the Scripture, as a book of religion, comes into contact with
other sciences and sheds its light upon them, it does not then
suddenly cease to be God's Word but continues to be such.
Furthermore, he added, "when it speaks about the origin of
heaven and earth, it presents no saga or myth or poetical
fantasy but even then, according to its clear intention, presents
history, which deserves faith and trust. And for that reason,
Christian theology, with but few exceptions, has held fast
to the literal, historical view of the account of creation."2
It is of course true that the Bible is not a textbook of science,
but all too often, it would seem, this fact is made a pretext
for treating lightly the content of Genesis one. Inasmuch as
the Bible is the Word of God, whenever it speaks on any sub-
ject, whatever that subject may be, it is accurate in what it
says. The Bible may not have been given to teach science as
such, but it does teach about the origin of all things, a ques-
1 "Non legitur in Evangelio Dominum dixisse: Mitto vobis Paracletum
qui vos doceat de cursu solis et lunae. Christianos enim facere volebat,
non mathematicos" ("De Actis Cum Felice Manichaeo", Patrologia Latina,
XLII, col. 525, caput X).
2 "Maar als de Schrift dan toch van haar standpunt uit, juist als boek
der religie, met andere wetenschappen in aanraking komt en ook daarover
haar licht laat schijnen, dan houdt ze niet eensklaps op Gods Woord to
zijn maar blijft dat. Ook als ze over de wording van hemel en aarde
spreekt, geeft ze geen sage of mythe of dichterlijke phantasie, maar ook
dan geeft zij naar hare duidelijke bedoeling historie, die geloof en ver-
trouwen verdient. En daarom hield de Christelijke theologie dan ook,
op schlechts enkele uitzonderingen na, aan de letterlijke, historische
opvatting van het scheppingsverhall vast" (Herman Bavinck: Gerefor-
meerde Dogmatiek, Tweede Deel, Kampen, 1928, p. 458).
tion upon which many scientists apparently have little to
say. At the present day Bavinck's remarks are particularly
in order, for recently there has appeared a recrudescence of
the so-called "framework" hypothesis of the days of Genesis,
an hypothesis which in the opinion of the writer of this article
treats the content of Genesis one too lightly and which, at
least according to some of its advocates, seems to rescue the
Bible from the position of being in conflict with the data of
modern science.3 The theory has found advocacy recently
both by Roman Catholics and by evangelical Protestants.4
It is the purpose of the present article to discuss this hypothesis
as it has been presented by some of its most able exponents.
I. Professor Noordtzij and the "Framework" Hypothesis
In 1924 Professor Arie Noordtzij of the University of
God's Word and the Testimony of the Ages.5 It is in many
3 Strack, for example (Die Genesis, 1905, p. 9), wrote, "sie (i. e., what
Strack calls "die ideale Auffassung") hat den grossen Vorteil, class sie bei
dem Ver. nicht naturwissenschaftliche Kenntnisse voraussetzt, die er aller
Wahrscheinlichkeit nach so wenig wie irgendeiner seiner Zeitgenossen
gehabt hat, and indem sie der Bibel wie der Naturwissenschaft volles
Recht lasst in Bezug auf das jeder eigentumliche Gebiet, hat sie doch
keinen Konflikt zwischen beiden zur Folge". Professor N. H. Ridderbos,
who has written one of the fullest recent discussions of the "framework"
hypothesis entitles the English translation of his work, Is There a Conflict
Between Genesis 1 and
nal work bears the title, Beschouwingen over Genesis I, Assen.
4 See J. O. Morgan: Moses and Myth,
cit.; Meredith G. Kline: "Because It Had Not Rained",
Theological Journal, Vol. XX, No. 2 (May 1958), pp. 146-157; Bernard
Ramm: The Christian View of Science and Scripture,
which gives a useful summary of various views (see pp. 222-229).
5 A. Noordtzij: Gods Woord en der Eeuwen Getuigenis. Het Oude Testa-
ment in het Licht der Oostersche Opgravingen, Kampen, 1924. In "Vragen
Rondom Genesis en de Naturwetenschappen", Bezinning, 17e Jaargang,
1962, No. 1, pp. 21 ff., attention is called to the position of Noordtzij.
The position is described as figurative (figuurlijke), and is opposed by
adducing the following considerations. 1.) The clear distinction between
Genesis 1 on the one hand and Genesis 2 and 3 in itself is not sufficient
ground for assuming that one section is to be taken literally, the other not.
2.) Did the writer of this part of Genesis really desire to make a hard and
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 3
respects a remarkable book and contains a useful discussion
of the relationship between the Old Testament and archae-
ological discoveries. Noordtzij has some interesting things to
say about the days of Genesis. The Holy Scripture, so he
tells us, always places the creation in the light of the central
fact of redemption, Christ Jesus.6 When we examine the first
chapter of Genesis in the light of other parts of Scripture, it
becomes clear that the intention is not to give a survey of the
process of creation, but to permit us to see the creative activity
of God in the light of his saving acts, and so, in its structure,
the chapter allows its full light to fall upon man, the crown of
the creative work.7
Inasmuch as the heaven is of a higher order than the earth
it is not subject to a development as is the earth.8 It rather
possesses its own character and is not to be placed on the
same plane as the earth. The order of visible things is bound
up with space and time, but not that of invisible things.
Nor does the Scripture teach a creation ex nihilo, but one out
of God's will.9
That the six days do not have to do with the course of a
natural process may be seen, thinks Noordtzij, from the
fast distinction between the creation account and what follows? The objec-
tion is summarized: "Sammenvattend zou men kunnen zeggen, dat het
argument: de schepping is iets totaal anders dan het begin der menschenge-
en 3, minder sterk is dan het lijkt" (pp. 23 f.).
6 "Der H. S. stelt het feit der schepping steeds in het licht van het
centrale heilsfeit der verlossing, die in Christus Jezus is, hetzij Hij in het
Oude Verbond profetisch wordt aangekondigd, hetzij die verlossing als
uitgangspunt voor de eschatalogische ontwikkeling wordt gegrepen"
(op. cit., p. 77).
7 "Zoo dikwijls men echter Gen. 1 beschouwt in het Iicht van de andere
gedeelten der H. S., wordt het duidelijk, dat hier niet de bedoeling voorzit
om ons een overzicht to geven van het scheppingsproces, maar om ons de
scheppende werkzaamheid Gods to doen zien in het licht zijner heilsge-
dachten, waarom het dan ook door zijn structuur het voile licht doet
vallen op den mensch, die als de kroon is van het scheppingswerk" (op.
cit., pp. 77 f.).
8 "Maar nu is de hemel, wijl van een andere en hoogere orde dan deze
aarde, niet aan ontwikkeling onderworpen gelijk deze aarde" (op. cit., p. 78).
9 "De H. S. leert ons dan ook niet een „scheppen uit niets" maar een
scheppen uit een kracht: de wil Gods (Openb. 4:11)" (op. cit., p. 79).
manner in which the writer groups his material. We are given
two trios which exhibit a pronounced parallelism, all of which
has the purpose of bringing to the fore the preeminent glory
of man, who actually reaches his destiny in the sabbath, for
the sabbath is the point in which the creative work of God
culminates and to which it attains.10 The six days show that
the process of origins is to be seen in the light of the highest
and last creation of this visible world, namely, man, and with
man the entire cosmos is placed in the light of the seventh
day and so in the light of dedication to God himself.11 What is
significant is not the concept "day", taken by itself, but rather
the concept of "six plus one".
Inasmuch as the writer speaks of evenings and mornings
previous to the heavenly bodies of the fourth day, continues
Noordtzij, it is clear that he uses the terms "days" and
"nights" as a framework (kader). Such a division of time is
a projection not given to show us the account of creation in
its natural historical course, but, as elsewhere in the Holy
Scriptures, to exhibit the majesty of the creation in the light
of the great saving purpose of God 12 The writer takes his
10 "De schepping is aangelegd op het groote, geestelijke goed, dat zich
in de sabbatsgedachte belichaamt. Daarom en daarom alleen is er in
Gen. 1 van 6 dagen sprake, waarop de sabbat volgt als de dag bij uitnemend-
heid, wijl het Gods dag is" (op. cit., p. 81).
11 "dat Genesis 1 het wordingsproces ziet in het licht van het hoogste
en laatste schepsel dezer zichtbare wereld: den mensch, en dat met then
mensch heel de kosmos gesteld wordt in het licht van den 7den dag en
dus in het licht van de wijding aan God zelven" (op. cit., p. 79). Even if
the entire emphasis, however, were to fall upon the seventh day, it would
not follow that the six days did not correspond to reality. On the con-
trary, the reality of the sabbath as a creation ordinance is grounded upon
the reality of the six days' work. If the seventh day does not correspond
to reality, the basis for observance of the sabbath is removed. Note the
connection in Exodus 20:8 ff., "Remember the day of the Sabbath to keep
it holy," "and he rested on the seventh day."
It should further be noted that the phrase tBAwa.ha MOy is not used in
Genesis 1:1-2:3, nor is there anything in the text which shows that the
six days are mentioned merely for the sake of emphasizing the concept of
the sabbath. Man, it is well to remember, was not made for the sabbath,
but the sabbath for man (cf. Mk. 2:27). Genesis 1:1-2:3 says nothing about
man's relation to the sabbath. Man was not created for the sabbath, but
to rule the earth.
12 "De tijdsindeeling is een projectie, gebezigd niet om ons het scheppings-
verhaal in zijn natuurhistorisch verloop to teekenen maar om evenals elders
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 5
expressions from the full and rich daily life of his people, for
the Holy Spirit always speaks the words of God in human
language. Why then, we may ask, are the six days mentioned?
The answer, according to Noordtzij, is that they are only
mentioned to prepare us for the seventh day.
In reply to this interpretation, the late Professor G. C.
Aalders of the Free University of Amsterdam had some cogent
remarks to make. Desirous as he was of being completely fair
to Noordtzij, Aalders nevertheless declared that he was com-
pelled to understand Noordtzij as holding that as far as the
days of Genesis are concerned, there was no reality with re-
spect to the divine creative activity.13 Aalders then adduced
two considerations which must guide every serious interpreter
of the first chapter of Genesis. (1) In the text of Genesis
itself, he affirmed, there is not a single allusion to suggest
that the days are to be regarded as a form or mere manner of
representation and hence of no significance for the essential
knowledge of the divine creative activity. (2) In Exodus
20:11 the activity of God is presented to man as a pattern,
and this fact presupposes that there was a reality in the
activity of God which man is to follow. How could man be
held accountable for working six days if God himself had not
actually worked for six days?14 To the best of the present
writer's knowledge no one has ever answered these two con-
siderations of Aalders.
in de H.S. ons de heerlijkheid der schepselen to teekenen in het licht van
het groote heilsdoel Gods" (op. cit., p. 80).
13 "Wij kunnen dit niet anders verstaan dat ook naar het oordeel van
Noordtzij aan de „dagen" geen realiteit in betrekking tot de Goddelijke
scheppingswerkzaamheid toekomt" (G. Ch. Aalders: De Goddelijke Open-
baring in de eerste drie Hoofdstukken van Genesis, Kampen, 1932, p. 233).
14 "1°, dat de tekst van Gen. 1 zelf geen enkele aanvijzing bevat, dat de
dagen slechts als een vorm of voorstellingswijze zouden bedoeld zijn en
derhalve voor de wezenlijke kennis van de Goddelijke scheppingswerkzaam-
heid geen waarde zouden hebben: en 2° dat in Ex. 20:11 het doen Gods
aan den mensch tot voorbeeld wordt gesteld; en dit veronderstelt zeer
zeker, dat in dat doen Gods een realiteit is geweest, welke door den mensch
hun worden nagevolgd. Hoe zou den mensch kunnen worden voorgehouden
dat hij na zes dagen arbeiden op den zevenden dag moet rusten, omdat
God in zes dagen alle dingen geschapen heeft en rustte op den zevenden
dag, indien aan die zes scheppingsdagen in het Goddelijk scheppingswerk
geen enkele realiteit beantwoordde?" (op. cit., p. 232).
II. Preliminary Remarks About Genesis One
Before we attempt to evaluate the arguments employed in
defense of a non-chronological view of the days of Genesis
one, it is necessary to delineate briefly what we believe to
be the nature of the Bible's first chapter. We may begin by
asking whether Genesis one is a special revelation from God
in the sense that it is a communication of information to
man from God concerning the subjects of which it treats.
This question has been answered in the negative by John L.
McKenzie, S.J. in a recent article. "It is not a tenable view
that God in revealing Himself also revealed directly and in
detail the truth about such things as creation and the fall of
man; the very presence of so many mythical elements in their
traditions is enough to eliminate such a view".15 If, however,
this view of special revelation cannot be held, what alternative
does Professor McKenzie offer? The alternative, it would
seem, is to look upon Genesis one as in reality a human
composition, although McKenzie does not use just these terms.
According to him Genesis one is a retreatment of a known
myth, in which the writer has radically excised the mythical
elements and has "written an explicit polemic against the
creation myth". The polytheism, theogony, theomachy and
the "creative combat" are removed so that now the act of
creation is "achieved in entire tranquility".16
What then are we to call the first chapter of Genesis after
these various pagan elements have been excised? It is not
history for "it is impossible to suppose that he (i. e., the
Hebrew) had historical knowledge of either of these events"
(i. e., either of the creation or the deluge).17 Nor can Genesis
one really be called a theological reconstruction or interpreta-
tion.18 What then is this first chapter of Genesis? Actually
15 John L. McKenzie, S.J.: "Myth and the Old Testament", in The
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, July 1959, p. 281.
16 Op. cit., p. 277. This position is widely held; cf. Young, "'The Interpre-
tation of Genesis 1:2", Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. XXIII,
May 1961, pp. 151-178, where references to relevant literature will be
17 Op. cit., p. 278.
18 But cf. Gerhard von Rad: Das erste Buch Mose, Genesis Kapitel 1-25,
18, 1953, p. 36, "es (i. e., the creation account) ist Lehre, die in langsamsten,
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 7
it is a story which the Hebrews told in place of the story
which it displaced. It is not, however, a single story, but
rather represents a multiple approach, and each of its images
has value as an intuition of creation's reality. These images
are symbolic representations of a reality which otherwise
would not be known or expressed. The knowledge of God the
Hebrews possessed through the revelation of himself, and in
their handling of the creation account they sought to remove
everything that was out of accord with their conception of
God. They did possess a knowledge of God but, even so, the
unknown remained unknown and mysterious. In speaking of
the unknown, therefore, all the Hebrews could do was "to
represent through symbolic forms the action of the unknown
reality which they perceived mystically, not mythically,
through His revelation of Himself".19
McKenzie's rejection of the view that Genesis one is a
special revelation from the one living and true God is some-
what facile. He brings only one argument against that posi-
tion, namely, the assumption that there are mythological
elements in the first chapter of the Bible.20
Elsewhere we have sought to demonstrate the untenable-
ness of the view that there are mythical elements in the first
chapter of the Bible.21
If, however, one rejects the position that Genesis one is a
special revelation of God, as Professor McKenzie does, a
number of pertinent questions remain unanswered. For one
thing, why cannot God have revealed to man the so-called
area of the unknown? Why, in other words, can God not have
told man in simple language just what God did in creating
the heaven and the earth?22 What warrant is there for the
jahrhundertelangem Wachstum sich behutsam angereichert hat". Despite
this sentence, it is not clear that the positions of von Rad and McKenzie
are essentially different.
19 Op. cit., p. 281.
20 K. Popma: "Enkele voorslagen betreffende de exegese van Genesis
1-3", in Lucerna, 30 Jaargang, no. 2, p. 632, speaks of this as exegesis
"die haar naam niet meer waard is; t.w. diverse opvattingen van sage,
21 Cf. Young: op. cit.
22 In Bezinning, loc. cit., p. 23, the wholesome remark is made, "welke
daad Gods, op welk moment in de menselijke historie, is niet to wonderlijk
assumption that the unknown could only be represented
through symbolic forms? Furthermore, if the Hebrews were
guided in their handling of the creation by the conceptions of
God which they held, whence did they obtain those concep-
tions? Were they communicated in words from God himself,
as when he said, "Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy"
(Leviticus 11:45b), or did they adopt them as a result of their
reaction to events in the world which they thought represented
the acting of God in power? How could the Hebrews know
that the conceptions of God which they possessed actually
corresponded to reality?
McKenzie's article shows what difficulties arise when one
rejects the historic position of the Christian Church, and
indeed of the Bible itself, that Scripture, in the orthodox sense,
is the Word of God and a revelation from him. As soon as
one makes the assumption that Genesis one is really the
work of man, he is hard pressed to discover the lessons that
the chapter can teach. If the work is of human origination,
how can it have a theological message or be regarded in any
sense as the Word of God?
The position adopted in this article is that the events
recorded in the first chapter of the Bible actually took place.
They were historical events, and Genesis one, therefore, is
to be regarded as historical. In employing the word "his-
torical", we are rejecting the definition which would limit the
word to that which man can know through scientific investiga-
tion alone.23 We are using the word rather as including all
om haar enigermate letterlijk in onze taal to beschrijven? Is de vleeswording
des Woords, is de bekering van ons hart minder wonderlijk dan de schepping
van hemel en aarde?" Those who reject the historic Christian position
that Scripture is a special revelation from God and yet still wish to regard
the Scripture as the Word of God have no adequate criterion by which to
judge the nature of Scripture. Thus, Ralph H. Elliott, The Message of
that it was up to succeeding generations to translate this event into mean-
ing "as they analyzed the event and as they comprehended God". But
how can one be sure that they analyzed the event correctly or that they
comprehended God correctly unless God himself told them how to do this?
23 Cf. e. g., W. F. Albright: From the Stone Age to Christianity.
1957, p. 399, and a discussion of this view in Young: Thy Word Is Truth,
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 9
which has transpired. Our knowledge of the events of creation
we receive through the inscripturated revelation of God.
The defense of this position will be made as the argument
progresses. At this point, however, it may be well to note
that the New Testament looks upon certain events of the
creative week as genuinely historical. The creation itself is
attributed to the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), and Peter
refers to the emerging of the earth as something that had
actually taken place (II Peter 3:5b).24 There is no question
in Paul's mind about the historicity of God's first fiat (II
Corinthians 4:6). According to Paul, the same God who
commanded the light to shine out of darkness has also shined
in the hearts of believers. Hebrews 6:725 seems to reflect upon
the bringing forth of herbs on the third day, and Acts 17:24
to the work of filling the earth with its inhabitants. Likewise
I Corinthians 11:7 asserts that man is the image of God, and
his creation is specifically mentioned in Matthew 19:4.
It is furthermore necessary to say a word about the relation-
ship between Scripture and science. For one thing it is difficult
to escape the impression that some of those who espouse a
non-chronological view of the days of Genesis are moved by a
desire to escape the difficulties which exist between Genesis
and the so-called "findings" of science.26 That such difficulties
24 Commenting on II Peter 3:5b, Bigg, (The International Critical Com-
the emerging of the earth from the waters (Gen. i.9) in which it had lain
buried, and the majority of commentators appear to adopt this explana-
tion". Bigg, himself, however, thinks that the reference is to the material
from which the earth was made. In this interpretation we think that Bigg
is mistaken. What is clear, however, is that Peter is referring to the event
in Genesis, as something that actually occurred. 1 o Peter the event which
he describes as gh? e]c u!datoj kai> di ] u!datoj sunestw?sa was just as his-
torical as that which he relates in the words di ] w$n o[ to<te ko<smoj u!dati
25 James Moffatt (The
International Critical Commentary,
1924, p. 81) thinks that Hebrews 6:7 contains reminiscences of the words
of Genesis 1:12.
26 Cf. Morgan: op. cit., pp. 17-46. The chronological order of Genesis
is thought to be practically the reverse of that of geology (p. 36). Morgan
mentions four attempts to "effect a conciliation between the postulates
of the natural sciences and the Mosaic cosmogony" (p. 36). One of these
is described as ingenious, "but it must inevitably prove unacceptable to
the scientist" (p. 37). The Idealist theory in its various forms is said to
do exist cannot be denied, and their presence is a concern to
every devout and thoughtful student of the Bible.27 It is for
this reason that one must do full justice both to Scripture and
Recently there has been making its appearance in some
evangelical circles the view that God has, in effect, given one
revelation in the Bible and another in nature. Each of these
in its own sphere is thought to be authoritative. It is the work
of the theologian to interpret Scripture and of the scientist to
interpret nature. "Whenever", as Dr. John Whitcomb de-
scribes it, "there is apparent conflict between the conclusions of
the scientist and the conclusions of the theologian, especially
with regard to such problems as the origin of the universe,
solar system, earth, animal life, and man; the effects of the
Edenic curse; and the magnitude and effects of the Noahic
Deluge, the theologian must rethink his interpretation of the
Scriptures at these points in such a way as to bring it into
harmony with the general consensus of scientific opinion on
these matters, since the Bible is not a textbook on science,
and these problems overlap the territory in which science
alone must give us the detailed and authoritative answers”.28
It would be difficult to state this approach more concisely
and accurately. One manifestation thereof maybe found in a
recent issue of Bezinning, in which the entire number is de-
be more satisfactory, and Lattey's view (i. e., a form of the non-chrono-
logical hypothesis) is described as "eminently satisfying" (p. 39).
27 It certainly cannot be expected of any mere man that he possess
sufficient knowledge to state accurately the full relationship between
Genesis and the study of God's created phenomena, let alone that he be
expected to resolve whatever difficulties may appear. A truly humble
student will acknowledge his ignorance and will make it his aim to be
faithful to the holy and infallible words of Scripture.' Marty of the alleged
difficulties, such as the creation of light before the sun, are really not basic
difficulties at all, for there are at hand reasonable explanations thereof.
And let it be remembered that scientists often adduce as "facts" that
which, as a result of further research, turns out not to be fact at all. The
treatment of this question in Bezinning (loc. cit., especially pp. 16 ff.) is
in many respects unsatisfactory and disappointing.
28 John C. Whitcomb, Jr.: Biblical Inerrancy and the Double Revelation
Theory, Presidential Address given at the Seventh General Meeting of
the Midwestern Section of the Evangelical Theological Society, May 4,
1962, Moody Bible Institute.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 11
voted to the subject, "Questions Concerning Genesis and the
Sciences".29 In the introduction to this work we are told
that a conflict between Genesis and science can only be avoided
when we maintain that the Bible is not a textbook of science
but "salvation-history", and that the writers of the Bible
spoke with the language and in the pictures of their time.30
What strikes one immediately upon reading such a state-
ment is the low estimate of the Bible which it entails. When-
ever "science" and the Bible are in conflict, it is always the
Bible that, in one manner or another, must give way. We are
not told that "science" should correct its answers in the light
of Scripture. Always it is the other way round. Yet this is
really surprising, for the answers which scientists have pro-
vided have frequently changed with the passing of time.
The "authoritative" answers of pre-Copernican scientists are
no longer acceptable; nor, for that matter, are many of the
views of twenty-five years ago.
To enter into a full critique of this thoroughly unscriptural
and, therefore, untenable position, would be out of place in
the present article.31 There is, however, one consideration
that must be noted, namely, that the approach which we are
now engaged in discussing is one which leaves out of account
the noetic effects of sin. It is true that the heavens declare
the glory of God, but the eyes of man's understanding, blinded
by sin, do not read the heavens aright. The noetic effects of
sin lead to anti-theistic presuppositions and inclinations. We
must remember that much that is presented as scientific fact
29 Op. cit., pp. 1-57.
30 "Een conflict tussen
Genesis en wetenschap
geval worden vermeden wanneer men vasthoudt dat de Bijbel geen hand-
boek is voot natuurwetenschap, maar Heilshistorie, en dat volgens het
woord van Calvijn, God in de H. Schrift tot ons spreekt als een moeder
tot haar kinderen" (op. cit., p. 2). Cf. Herman Ridderbos' discussion,
"Belangrijke publikatie" in Gereformeerd Weekblad, Zeventiende Jaargang,
Nr. 40, p. 314, and the valuable remarks of Visee, in Lucerna, loc. cit.,
pp. 638-639. Particularly timely is his comment, "De Schrift verhaalt
ons heilsfeiten, maar deze waarheid houdt ook in dat we hier met feiten
to doen hebben" (p. 639).
31 Cf. Cornelius Van Til: The Defense of the Faith, Phila., 1955. Visee
(op. cit., p. 641) rightly applies the old and pertinent rule, "Lees wat er
staat, en versta wat ge leest".
is written from a standpoint that is hostile to supernatural
In the nature of the case God's revelation does not conflict
with itself. His revelation in nature and that in Scripture are
in perfect accord. Man, however, is a rational creature, and
needs a revelation in words that he may properly understand
himself and his relation to the world in which he lives. Even
in his unfallen state, God gave to Adam a word-revelation, for
by his very constitution as an intellectual being, man must
have such. The word-revelation, therefore, must interpret
revelation in nature. Fallen man must read general revelation
in the light of Scripture, else he will go basically astray. Of
course the Bible is not a textbook of science, but the Bible is
necessary properly to understand the purpose of science.
Perhaps one may say that it is a textbook of the philosophy
of science. And on whatever subject the Bible speaks, whether
it be creation, the making of the sun, the fall, the flood, man's
redemption, it is authoritative and true. We are to think
God's thoughts after him, and his thoughts are expressed in
the words of Scripture. When these thoughts have to do with
the origin of man, we are to think them also. They alone
must be our guide. "Therefore", says Calvin, "while it be-
comes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the
works of God, since a place has been assigned him in this
most glorious theatre that he may be a spectator of them,
his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the
better profit".32 And what Calvin so beautifully states, God
himself had already made known to us through the Psalmist,
"The entrance of thy words giveth light" (Psalm 119:130).
By way of summary we may state the three basic considera-
tions which will undergird the position adopted in this article.
1. Genesis one is a special revelation from God.
2. Genesis one is historical; it relates matters which actually
3. In the nature of the case, general revelation is to be
interpreted by special revelation, nature by Scripture,
"science" by the Bible.
32 Institutes of the Christian Religion,
translated by Henry Beveridge.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 13
III. Evaluation of Arguments used to Defend
the "Framework" Hypothesis
1. The Use of Anthropomorphic Language
In defense of the non-chronological hypothesis it is argued
that God speaks anthropomorphically. "Is ... the author not
under the necessity", asks Professor N. H. Ridderbos, "of
employing such a method, because this is the only way to
speak about something that is really beyond all human
thoughts and words?"33 And again, "Does the author mean to
say that God completed creation in six days, or does he make
use of an anthropomorphic mode of presentation?"34
If we understand this argument correctly, it is that the
mention of six days is merely an anthropomorphic way of
speaking. We are not to interpret it, as did Luther and
Calvin, to mean that God actually created in six days, but
merely to regard it as an anthropomorphic mode of speech.
Genesis 2:7, for example, speaks of God forming the body of
man of dust from the ground, but this does not mean that God
acted as a potter, nor does Genesis 3:21 in stating that God
clothed Adam and his wife mean to say that God acted as
a "maker of fur-clothes". Again, when we are told that God
rested (Genesis 2:2) are we to infer that "God had to exert
Himself to create the world?”35
It is of course true that the term "anthropomorphism" has
often been employed with reference to such phrases as "the
mouth of the Lord", "and God said", "and God saw", and other
similar expressions.36 It is certainly true that God did not
33 "The Meaning of Genesis I", in Free University Quarterly, Vol. IV,
1955/1957, p. 222 (hereafter abbreviated Quarterly).
34 Is There A Conflict Between Genesis 1 And Natural Science?, p. 30
(hereafter abbreviated Conflict). Ridderbos gives three examples of
35 Op. cit., p. 30.
36 A series of penetrating articles on the question of anthropomorphism
by G. Visee appeared in De Reformatie (28e Jaargang, Nos. 34-43, 1953)
under the title "Over het anthropomorphe spreken Gods in de heilige
Schrift". He concludes that to talk of an "anthropomorphic" revelation
in the usual sense of the word is not justifiable, and that it is better not to
use the term. In Lucerna (loc. cit., pp. 636 f.) he writes, "Ik ontken en
bestrijd heel de idee van een „anthropomorphe" openbaring. God heeft
speak with physical organs of speech nor did he utter words
in the Hebrew language. Are we, however, for that reason,
to come to the conclusion that the language is merely figurative
and does not designate a specific divine activity or reality?
If we were so to conclude we would not be doing justice
to the Scriptures. The phrases which have just been quoted
are not devoid of significance and meaning. Rather, the state-
ment, "and God said", to take one example, represents a
genuine activity upon the part of God, a true and effectual
speaking which accomplishes his will.37 There are at least two
reasons which substantiate this conclusion. In the first place
genuine content is attributed to God's speaking, namely, the
words, "Let there be light". This is strengthened by the
remarkable usage which Paul makes of the passage in II
Corinthians 4:6a.38 In the second place, that which God
speaks brings his will to pass. It is powerful and efficacious.
"For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood
fast" (Psalm 33:9); "Through faith we understand that the
worlds were framed by the word of God" (Hebrews 11:3a).
These passages teach that the Word of God is efficacious.39
van het begin der wereld aan in mensentaal gesproken en gezegd wat Hij
to zeggen had in de taal, welker vorming hij blijkens Genesis 2:19 opzettelijk
aan de mens had overgelaten".
37 With respect to the words "and God saw", Keil comments that it
"is not an anthropomorphism at variance with enlightened thoughts of
God; for man's seeing has its type in God's, and God's seeing is not a
mere expression of delight of the eye or of pleasure in His work, but is of
the deepest significance to every created thing, being the seal of the perfec-
tion which God has impressed. upon it, and by which its continuance before
God and through God is determined" (Biblical Commentary on the Old
38 According to Paul, the content of God's speaking (o[ ei]pw<n) is found
in the words e]k sko<touj fw?j la<myei. In this remarkable utterance
Paul also emphasizes the distinction between light and darkness. Perhaps
a reflection of the truth that God spoke is found on the Shabaka stone, in
which Atum's coming into being is attributed to the heart and tongue of
Cf. James Pritchard: Ancient Near Eastern
39 Cf. also Deut. 8:3; I Kg. 8:56; Ps. 105:8; 119:50; 147:15; Isa. 45:23;
55:11 ff.; Matt. 24:35; Lk. 4:32; 24:19; Heb. 4:12; I Pet. 1:23; II Pet. 3:5.
In these passages it is well to note the connection between word and deed.
The word is powerful and accomplishes the purpose for which it was
spoken. It is also necessary, however, to note that there is no power re-
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 15
Hence, whatever be the term that we employ to characterize
such a phrase as "and God said", we must insist that the
phrase represents an effectual divine activity which may very
properly be denominated “speaking”.40
It is necessary, however, to examine the extent of "an-
thropomorphism" in the passages adduced by Professor Rid-
derbos. If the term "anthropomorphic" may legitimately be
used at all, we would say that whereas it might apply to some
elements of Genesis 2:7, it does not include all of them. In
other words, if anthropomorphism is present, it is not present
in each element of the verse. The words "and God breathed"
may be termed anthropomorphic,41 but that is the extent to
which the term may be employed. The man was real, the dust
was real, the ground was real as was also the breath of life.
To these elements of the verse the term "anthropomorphism"
cannot legitimately be applied. Nor can everything in Genesis
3:21 be labeled with the term "anthropomorphic". We need
but think, for example, of the man and the woman and the
coats of skin.
What, then, shall we say about the representation of the
first chapter of Genesis that God created the heaven and
siding in the word conceived as an independent entity divorced from God.
God's Word is powerful because God himself gives power to it, and brings
to pass what he has promised. If the same "Word" were spoken by any-
one other than God, it would not accomplish what it does when spoken
40 At the same time we cannot state specifically what this speaking of
God is. There is an infinite difference between God's speaking and man's.
Although both may legitimately be designated "speaking", yet they cannot
be identified, for man as a finite being speaks as a creature; the speaking of
God on the other hand is that of an infinite being.
41 The phrase "and God formed" is not merely figurative and devoid of
meaning. Although with physical hands God did not form the body of
Adam, nevertheless, God did produce Adam's body from the dust in such
a way that his action may accurately be designated a "forming".
Even the words "and God breathed" indicate a definite action on God's
part. The divine breathing was not accomplished by means of physical,
material organs. It was a divine, not a human, breathing. Although the
term "anthropomorphic" may be applied to the phrase "and God
breathed", nevertheless, the phrase is not empty of content. This is true,
even though one cannot state precisely what the divine breathing was.
Cf. Visee, op. cit., pp. 636 f.
the earth in six days? Is this anthropomorphic language? We
would answer this question in the negative, for the word
anthropomorphic, if it is a legitimate word at all, can be
applied to God alone and cannot properly be used of the six
days. In speaking of six days Moses may conceivably have
been employing figurative, literal, or poetical language, but
it was not anthropomorphic. Hence, we do not believe that
it is accurate to speak of the six days as an anthropomorphic
mode of expression.
From the presence of "anthropomorphic" words or ex-
pressions in Genesis one, it does not follow that the mention
of the days is anthropomorphic nor does it follow that the
days are to be understood in a topical or non-chronological
order rather than chronologically. If the days are to be in-
terpreted non-chronologically, the evidence for this must be
something other than the presence of anthropomorphisms in
the first chapter of Genesis. The occurrence of anthropomor-
phic language in Genesis one in itself, if such language really
does occur, sheds no light one way or another upon the ques-
tion whether the days are to be understood topically or chrono-
logically. For that matter even the presence of figurative
language or of a schematic arrangement, taken by themselves,
would not warrant the conclusion that the days were not
2. The Appeal to Genesis 2:5
One of the strongest arguments in favor of a nonchrono-
logical order of the days is thought to be found in an appeal
to Genesis 2:5.42 The presupposition of this verse, it is held,
is that during the period of creation divine providence was
in operation "through processes which any reader would
recognize as normal in the natural world of his day".43 If in
Genesis 2:5 ff. there is embedded the principle that God's
providence during the creation period operated in the same
manner as it does at the present time, then the view that the
days of Genesis one were twenty-four hours in length would
42 Kline: op. cit., pp. 146-157.
43 Op. Cit., p. 150.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 17
scarcely be tenable. For, to take an example, if the third
day began with an earth covered with water and then in the
course of that day dry land emerged, the evaporation would
have to take place at such a rate of speed that it would not be
the normal ordinary working of divine providence. Even if
the days be regarded as longer than twenty-four hours, so the
argument runs, difficulty appears, for then we must hold
that there was vegetation without the sun.
The question to be considered is whether upon the basis of
Genesis 2:5 we are justified in believing that the method in
which divine providence operated during the creation period
was the same as that in effect at present. To answer this
question it is necessary to consider briefly the relation of
Genesis 1 and 2. In the first place Genesis two is not, nor does
it profess to be, a second account of creation.44 Although it
does mention creative acts, it is a sequel to the creation narra-
tive of Genesis one and a preparation for the history of the
fall contained in chapter 3. This is proved by the phrase
"These are the generations of the heavens and the earth"
To understand the significance of this phrase we must note
the word tOdl;OT in which is obviously derived from dlayA, "to
bear", and in the Hiph'il stem with which it is related, the
meaning is "to beget". The tOdl;OT therefore are "those
things which are begotten", and Genesis 2:4a should then be
translated literally, "These are the things begotten of heaven
and earth". The section of Genesis beginning with 2:4 is an
44 This statement is made in the light of the constant affirmations to
the contrary. Thus, Ralph H. Elliott: op. cit., p. 28 speaks of "The First
or Priestly Account of Creation (1:1 to 2:4a)" and "The Second Creation
Account (2:4b-25)" (p. 41). Perhaps it is an encouraging sign that von
Rad labels 2:4b-25 "Die jahwistische Geschichte von Paradies" (Das
erste Buch Mose,
Yahwistic Story of Paradise" (Genesis,
translated by John H. Marks, p. 71). On the other hand the following
comment of von Rad is very disappointing, "Die kosmologischen Vorstel-
lungen, von denen unser jahwistischer Schopfungsbericht ausgeht, sind
also sehr verschieden von denen, die uns bei P. begegnet sind and mussen
aus einem ganz anderen Uberlieferungskreis stammen" (op. cit., p. 61).
Once, however, we abandon the untenable documentary hypothesis and
recognize the true nature of Genesis, we can understand the proper rela-
tionship between the first and second chapters.
account of those things which are begotten of heaven and
earth. This is not to say that it is silent on the subject of the
heaven and earth themselves, but it is not an account of their
origin.45 It deals rather with what was begotten of them,
namely, man, whose body is of the earth and whose soul is of
heavenly origin, inbreathed by God himself.46
It is necessary to examine more closely the usage of this
phrase in Genesis. Genesis is divided into two great sections
I. The Creation of Heaven and Earth, and II. The Genera-
tions. The second section is again subdivided into ten sections
each being introduced with the word tOdl;OT. In each case
this word indicates the result or product, that which is pro-
duced. With the genitive, however, in this case "the heavens
and the earth", Moses refers to a point of beginning.47 In
Genesis 11:27, for example, we read, "these are the generations
of Terah". This does not mean that we are now introduced
to an account of Terah ; rather, the account of Terah is com-
pleted. There may, indeed, be certain statements about Terah
to follow, but the section before us is concerned with an ac-
count of those begotten of Terah, in this case, Abraham.
Genesis 2:4 in effect declares that the account of the creation
45 Skinner (The International
Critical Commentary, Genesis,
1925, p. 40) states that it is doubtful whether the word ni-i5in can bear
the meaning "origin". Driver (The Book of Genesis, London, 1926, p. 19)
asserts that "generations" is applied metaphorically to "heaven and earth"
and denotes the things which "might be regarded metaphorically as pro-
ceeding from them, . . . i. e., just the contents of ch. 1". Such, however,
is not the force of the phrase.
It is practically an axiom of modern negative criticism that 2:4a belongs
to the so-called P document. What follows, however, is said to be JE.
Hence, it is claimed, 2:4a cannot be a superscription to 2:4b ff. Von Rad
(op. cit., p. 49) candidly acknowledges this. But why may not Moses have
employed previously existing documents and himself have united them by
means of the phrase tOdl;OT hl.Axe? Is there any reason why 2:4a cannot
serve as a superscription to the second section of Genesis? Why in the
interests of a supposed diversity of documents destroy a fundamental
unity as clear-cut and beautiful as that which underlies the structure of
46 Cf. William Henry Green: The Unity of the Book of Genesis,
1895, pp. 7-20.
47 This phrase has been most competently discussed in recent times by
B. Holwerda: Dictaten, Deel I, Historia Revelationis Veteris Testamenti,
Eerste Aflevering, Kampen, 1954, pp. 9-17.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 19
of heaven and earth is completed, and that the author is now
going to focus his attention upon what was begotten of heaven
and earth, namely, man. It is in the light of this fact that
Genesis 2:5 is to be understood. The primary reference of
this verse is to man, not to the creation, and the purpose of
chapter 2 is to manifest the goodness of God in giving to man
a paradise for his earthly dwelling. "The earth is the Lord's
and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein"
(Ps. 24:1). Although the earth is the Lord's and although he
might cause man to dwell on it where he would, nevertheless
he prepared a wondrous garden for his guest. To emphasize
the beauty of the garden, but above all the goodness of God,
a contrast is introduced. Man is to dwell as God's guest not
in a waterless waste, but in a planted garden. The waterless
ground of Genesis 2:5 stands in contrast to the well-watered
Two reasons are given why plants had not yet grown.
On the one hand it had not rained, and on the other there
was no man to till the ground. The garden cannot be planted
until the ground has been watered, nor can it be tended until
man is on hand. Both of these reasons, therefore, look for-
ward to man's home, the garden, and to the one who is to
inhabit that garden. At this point, however, an exegetical
question arises. Does Genesis 2:5 intend to state that the
entire earth was barren, or is its purpose rather to show that
in contrast to a waterless waste, the abode of man was to be
a garden? Perhaps this question cannot be settled entirely,
and it is the part of wisdom not be dogmatic, although the
latter alternative has much to commend it.49
48 The theme of refreshing waters is carried throughout Scripture. In
particular we may note Exodus 17:6; Ps. 65:9; Prov. 21:1; Isa. 12:3; 32:2;
Jn. 4:10 ff., 7:38; Rev. 21:6; 22:1, 17. Visee makes a pertinent comment
(loc. cit., p. 638), "Genoemde gegevens weerspreken elke gedachte als zou
het in deze hoofdstukken verhaalde passen in een, primitief milieu, een
door de cultuur nog niet opengelegd en onontslaten gebied". T. C. Mitchell
("Archaeology and Genesis I-XI", Faith and Thought, Vol. 91, No. 1,
Summer 1959, pp. 28-49) gives an interesting discussion of this question.
49 Some commentators assume that the reference is to the entire earth.
Procksch, however (Die Genesis ubersetzt and erklart, Leipzig, 1913, p. 21),
states that "das Weltbild ist bier dem Steppenlande entnommen". hd,WA,
is "not 'the widespread plain of the earth, the broad expanse of land,'
Whichever of these positions we adopt, we may note that
the fulfillment of at least one of the two requirements necessary
for plant growth could have been accomplished by ordinary
providence. If, as is sometimes held, the watering of the
ground was the work of subterranean waters,50 did they water
but a field of arable land, soil fit for cultivation which forms only a part
of the ‘earth’ or ‘ground.’" "The creation of the plants is not alluded to
at all, but simply the planting of the garden in
p. 77). "All the faces of the ground" is also said to be a phrase which "ist
auch hier nicht die gesamte Erdflache (YAK), sondern nur das anbaufahige
Erdreich" (Procksch: op. cit., p. 22).
50 The various interpretations of `h may be found in Kline: op. cit.,
p. 150. Konig (Die Genesis eingeleitet, iibersetzt and erklart, Gtitersloh,
1925, pp. 198-200) is one of the strongest defenders of the view that iM
means mist (Dunst), for he thinks that the rising of a mist is a natural
preparation for rainfall. "Denn selbstverstandlich ist gemeint, dass der
aufsteigende Wasserdunst sich wieder als Regen gesenkt habe" (p. 199).
Konig thinks that it is a wrong method to derive the meaning of a Hebrew
word directly from the Babylonian. edu, therefore, is not to determine
the meaning of dxa. Aalders (op. cit., p. 114) also adopts this position.
He asserts that the mist (damp) arose from the earth, which could hardly
be said of a flood. In Job 36:27 the meaning "flood" is thought not to be
suitable. In the formation of the rain clouds, says Aalders, despite the
difficulties of Job 36:27, "mist" is understandable, but not "flood".
It should be noted, however, that none of the ancient versions rendered
word as "mist". Thus, LXX, phgh<;
fons; Syriac XXXXX. What really rules out the rendering "rain" or "mist"
is the verb hqAw;hiv;. The causing of the earth to drink is the work of the
dxe which arises from the ground. Obviously, a mist which arises may
moisten the ground, but how can it, inasmuch as it comes up from the
earth, cause the earth to drink? The translation "mist" must be abandoned.
Albright's suggestion ("The Predeuteronomic Primeval", Journal of
Biblical Literature, Vol. 58, 1939, p. 102) that the word dxe be traced to
the Id, the subterranean source of fresh water, has much to commend it.
All mythological or polytheistic associations, however, are completely
missing in Genesis 2:5. In support of Albright's position appeal may be
to Samuel N. Kramer: Enki and Ninhursag,
p. 13, lines 45, 46, " `mouth whence issues the water of the earth,' bring
thee sweet water from the earth". Even if we adopt the view that dxe
means "mist" or "cloud" and that the reference is to a mist which arises
from the ground and returns to water it in the form of rain, that does not
prove that ordinary providential activity prevailed on the third day. On
the third day there were two works, and both were creative works, namely:
1. FIAT - FULFILLMENT (Gathering of the waters into one place
and appearance of the dry land).
2. FIAT - FULFILLMENT (Earth sending forth grass, etc.).
If Genesis 2:6 is to be fitted in here, it obviously must fall between the
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 21
the entire surface of the globe? If they did, then such a work,
while not the method that God today employs to water the
whole earth, nevertheless may have been a providential work.
To water the ground, therefore, may have been accomplished
by a modus operandi similar to that by which God today
works in his providential activity. Nevertheless, it was a
unique act, and one never to be repeated. If it was a provi-
dential work, it was unique and distinct, for God has never
again watered the entire earth in this manner. If, on the
other hand, the hmAdAxE here has a somewhat restricted sense,
as is probably the case, then we certainly cannot in any sense
appeal to this verse for help in the interpretation of Genesis
one, for in this case the verse merely emphasizes that the
paradise was planted in what once was wasteland.51
In the second place, the fulfillment of the need for man to
cultivate the garden was not met by means of ordinary provi-
dential working. To meet this need there was special super-
natural activity, namely, the divine forming and the divine
What relationship, then, does Genesis 2:5ff. sustain to the
third day of creation mentioned in Genesis one? If Genesis
first and second fiat. Activity by means of "fiat" creation however, is not
the modus operandi of divine providence. If, therefore, divine providential
activity was introduced after the accomplishment of the first fiat, it was
interrupted again by the second fiat and its fulfillment. Even, therefore,
if Genesis 2:5 ff. could be made to show that divine providence was present
during the third day, what is stated of the third day in Genesis 1 makes it
clear that divine providence did not prevail during the third day.
51 It is well to note the distinction between hmAdAxE and Cr,xA which is
found in this section. Whereas Cr,xA refers to the earth generally, hmAdAxE is
the ground upon which man dwells. The hmAdAxE is more restricted in refer-
ence than Cr,xA, and it is also that ground which produces the sustenance
that will sustain the life of MdAxA and which MdAxA must cultivate. Procksch
comments, "MdAxA und hmAdAxE sind aufeinander angewiesen, der Mensch ist
dem Wesen nach Bauer" (op. cit., p. 22), but such a conclusion does not
52 In the following comment Gunkel presses the language of Scripture in
an unwarrantable manner: "Diese Zeit weiss noch nichts von dem Super-
naturalismus der spateren Epoche, sondern sie erzahlt unbefangen, dass
,,Gott Jahve" seine Geschopfe „formte", d.h. sie mit seinen eigenen
2:5 has reference to the entire globe, it applies to the third day
and merely describes the "dry land" of the third day. But if
that be the case, the verse does not show that the present
modus operandi of divine providence, while it may have been
present, necessarily prevailed on the third day. At the most it
teaches that God watered the ground by means of an dxe that
kept rising from the earth.53 If, on the other hand, Genesis
2:5ff. simply describes the preparation of the garden of Eden,
it may not be applicable at all to the third day, but may
rather be fitted into the sixth day. While there are difficulties
in the interpretation of the verse, it is clear that it cannot be
used to establish the thesis that the present modus operandi
of divine providence prevailed during the third day. At most
it shows that such a mode may have been present.
The appeal to Genesis 2:5a, it must be remembered, to
establish the thesis that during the days of creation the modus
operandi of divine providence was the same as is at present in
effect, can only have validity if it proves that there was no
supernatural intrusion such as might be found, for example,
in the working of miracles. But such supernatural intrusion
was certainly present in the creation of man (Gen. 2:7).
And the only works ascribed to the third day are creative
works, not those of ordinary divine providence. Indeed, on
no viewpoint can it be established that ordinary providential
working prevailed on the third day. The only works assigned
to this day were the result of special, divine, creative fiats.
If ordinary providence existed during the third day, it was
53 The force of hlAfEya must be noted. Delitzsch takes it as indicating a
single action "normirt durch den historischen Zusammenh. in Imperfectbe-
deutung" (Commentar uber die Genesis, Leipzig, 1860, p. 140). Tuch,
however (Commentar uber die Genesis, Halle, 1871, p. 52) takes the verb
as in verse 10, and Isa. 6:4 "von der werdenden, allmalig erst geschehenden
Handlung". The latter is a more accurate representation of the He-
brew. Driver believes that the imperfect has frequentative force,
"used to go up" (A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, Ox-
ford, MDCCCXCII, p. 128). Gesenius, Kautzsch, Cowley state that
the imperfect here expresses an action which continued throughout a
longer or shorter period, "a mist went up, continually" (Gesenius' Hebrew
the Hebrew Language,
"not only at the moment of time previously referred to but from that time
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 23
interrupted at two points by divine fiats. Even apart from
any consideration of Genesis 2:5, therefore, it cannot be held
that the present modus operandi of divine providence prevailed
on the third day, nor does the appeal to Genesis 2:5 prove
such a thing. On the contrary, all that is stated of the third
day (Gen. 1:9-15) shows that the works of that day were
creative works and not those of ordinary providence. An
appeal to Genesis 2:5 therefore does not support the position
that the days are to be taken in a non-chronological manner.54
3. The Schematic Nature of Genesis One
A further argument adduced to support the non-chrono-
logical view is found in the claim that Genesis one is schematic
in nature. Thus, the author is said to divide the vegetable
world into two groups, plants which give seed by means of the
fruits and plants which give seed in a more direct way. In
verses 24ff. something of the same nature is said to be found.55
It may very well be that the author of Genesis one has
arranged his material in a schematic manner. On this par-
ticular question we shall have more to say when presenting a
positive interpretation of the chapter. At this point, however,
one or two remarks will suffice. In the first place, from the
fact that some of the material in Genesis one is given in
schematic form, it does not necessarily follow that what is
stated is to be dismissed as figurative or as not describing
what actually occurred. Sometimes a schematic arrangement
may serve the purpose of emphasis. Whether the language
is figurative or symbolical, however, must be determined upon
exegetical grounds. Secondly, a schematic disposition of the
material in Genesis one does not prove, nor does it even
54 Even if dxe referred to evaporation (and as shown in note 31 this is
not possible) it is difficult to understand how it could have provided rain-
fall sufficient for the entire earth. And if the reference is local, how can
evaporation have arisen from a land in which there had been no rain or
dew, and how on this interpretation can Genesis 2:5 be fitted into the
third day of Genesis 1? These considerations support the view that the
dxe designates subterranean waters, waters which may have entered the
earth when the division between seas and dry land was made.
55 Quarterly, p. 223.
suggest, that the days are to be taken in a non-chronological
sense. There appears to be a certain schematization, for
example, in the genealogies of Matthew one, but it does not
follow that the names of the genealogies are to be understood
in a non-chronological sense, or that Matthew teaches that
the generations from Abraham to David parallel, or were
contemporary with, those from David to the Babylonian
captivity and that these in turn are parallel to the generations
from the Babylonian captivity to Christ.56 Matthew, in other
words, even though he has adopted a certain schematic ar-
rangement, namely, fourteen generations to each group, is
not presenting three different aspects of the same thing. He
is not saying the same thing in three different ways. He has a
schematic arrangement, but that does not mean that he has
thrown chronology to the winds. Why, then, must we con-
clude that, merely because of a schematic arrangement, Moses
has disposed of chronology?
4. Is the First-Hand Impression of Genesis One Correct?
In defense of the non-chronological view of the days it is
asserted, and rightly, that Genesis one is not the product of a
naive writer.57 At the same time, so it is argued, if we read
Genesis "without prepossession or suspicion" we receive the
impression that the author meant to teach a creation in six
ordinary days and, more than that, to teach that the earth
was created before the sun, moon and stars. This impression,
apparently, is to be considered naive. "Is it good", asks
Ridderbos, "to read Genesis one thus simply, 'avec des yeux
ingenus'?"58 It is, of course, true that the first-hand impression
that comes to us upon reading certain passages of the Bible
may not be the correct one. Further reflection may lead to a
re-evaluation of our first-hand impression and to the adoption
of a different interpretation. But if we label a first-hand
56 Cf. Matthew 1:1-17. Verse 17 gives a summary comment. It would
certainly be unwarranted to conclude that, merely because of the schematic
arrangement in Matthew, the names were to be interpreted figuratively or
57 Conflict, p. 29.
58 Ibid., p. 29.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 25
impression naive, we cannot do so merely upon the basis of
our own independent and "autonomous" opinion as to what is
naive. Only exegesis can tell us whether a certain impression
is or is not naive. We ourselves, upon the basis of our subjec-
tive judgment, are not warranted in making such a pronounce-
ment. If the first-hand impression that any Scripture makes
upon us is naive, it is Scripture alone that can enable us so to
judge, and not we ourselves apart from the Scripture.
If we understand it correctly, the argument now before us
is that the prima facie impression which we receive from
Genesis one is naive, and not to be accepted.59 This considera-
tion raises the question why it is naive to believe that God
created all things in six ordinary days or that the earth was
created before the sun? This line of argumentation would
prove too much, for it could be applied to other passages of
Scripture as well. One who reads the Gospels, for example, is
likely to receive the impression that they teach that Jesus
rose from the dead. But can we in this day of science seriously
be expected to believe that such an event really took place?
At the same time, the Gospels can hardly be called the products
of naive writers. Are we, therefore, able to understand the
writers' meaning at first glance? Do the writers really intend
to teach that Jesus rose from the dead or may they not be
employing this particular manner of statement to express
some great truth?
Only solid exegesis can lead to the true understanding of
Scripture. If, in any instance, what appears to be the prima
59 At this point Ridderbos quotes the well-known statement of von
Rad, a statement which he thinks "is of importance here" (Conflict, p. 29),
namely, " `It is doctrine which has been cautiously enriched in a process
of very slow, century-long growth' " ("es ist Lehre, die in langsamstem,
jahrehundertelangem Wachstum sich behutsam angereichert hat" (von
Rad, op. cit., p. 36). In the sense intended by von Rad, however, this
statement cannot be accepted, for there is no evidence to support it. If
Moses had before him written documents which he employed in compiling
Genesis 1, these documents simply reflected an original revelation con-
cerning the creation. When Moses as an inspired penman wrote, he was
superintended by God's Spirit, so that he wrote precisely what God wished
him to write. The form and content of Genesis 1 were the work of Moses
writing under the inspiration of God's Spirit, and the words of Genesis 1
are God-breathed words (cf. II Tim. 3:16).
facie meaning is not the true one, it is exegesis alone, and not
our independent judgment that the apparent prima facie
meaning is naive, that will bring us to the truth.
5. The Author of Genesis had a Sublime Concept of God
Somewhat similar is the argument that inasmuch as the
author has such a sublime concept of God, we cannot believe
that he meant to say that God used a day for each of his
great works.60 The same objection must be raised against
this type of reasoning as was urged against the idea that some
of the representations in Genesis one are naive. It is not the
prerogative of the exegete on his own to determine what a
sublime conception of God is.
It might also be remarked in this connection that if the
idea of creation in six days really does detract from a sublime
concept of God, the author of Genesis was certainly ill-advised
in using it. If the author really possessed this sublime con-
cept, why did he employ a scheme which would detract from
that concept? Would it not have been better if he had simply
told us the truth about creation in a straightforward manner,
rather than used a scheme which presents a way of creation
inconsistent with a sublime concept of God?
6. Parallelism of the Days
In favor of a non-chronological order of the days, it is also
argued that there exists a certain parallelism between the
first three and the last three days. Thus, it is held, the six
days are divided into two groups of three each. The parallelism
is thought to be seen in the light of the first day and the
light-bearers of the fourth.61 Again, on the second day the
firmament is created which divides the waters above and
below it, and on the fifth day the waters are filled with living
creatures. On the third day dry land appears, and on the
sixth the inhabitants of earth are created.
6o Conflict, p. 31. "Are we really to take literally the representation
that for every great work (or two works) of creation He used a day?"
61 Quarterly, p. 223.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 27
Assuming that such parallelism actually exists, at best it
proves that days four, five and six parallel days one, two and
three. Even on this construction, however, a certain amount
of chronology is retained. Days two-five must follow days
one-four, and days three-six must follow days two-five. Hence,
even here there would be chronological order, namely, days
one-four, two-five, three-six.
As soon as one examines the text carefully, however, it
becomes apparent that such a simple arrangement is not
actually present. We may note that the light-bearers of the
fourth day are placed in the firmament of heaven (1:14, 17).
The firmament, however, was made on the second day (1:6, 7).
Inasmuch as the fourth day is said to parallel the first, it
follows that the work of the second day (making the firma-
ment) must precede that of the first and fourth days (i. e.,
placing the light-bearers in the firmament). If the first and
fourth days are really parallel in the sense that they present
two aspects of the same thing, and if part of the work of the
fourth day is the placing of the luminaries in the firmament,
it follows that the firmament must be present to receive the
luminaries. The firmament therefore, existed not only before
the fourth day, but, inasmuch as it is a parallel to the fourth,
before the first day also. This is an impossible conclusion, for
verse three is connected with verse two grammatically, in
that the three circumstantial clauses of verse two modify the
main verb of verse three. At the same time by its use of the
introductory words Cr,xAhAv;, verse two clearly introduces the
detailed account of which a general statement is given in verse
one. Verse two is the beginning of the section or unit, the
first action of which is expressed by the main verb of verse
three.62 To hold that days two-five precede days one-four is
simply to abandon all grammatical considerations.
Furthermore, if day five is a parallel to day two, and day
two is earlier than days one-four Genesis one is practically
reduced to nonsense. On the fifth day the birds fly in the
open firmament of heaven, and the fish fill the seas. This
may cause no difficulty as far as the fish are concerned, but
62 Cf. "The Relation of the First Verse of Genesis One to Verses Two
light has not yet been created, and light is a prerequisite for
the life of birds. A further difficulty also emerges. The fish
are to swim in the seas (Mymi.ya), but the seas were not formed
until the third day. Day five, it must be noted, does not
refer to the primeval ocean, but to the seas. From these
brief considerations it is apparent that we cannot regard
Genesis one as containing two groups of three days, each day
of one group being a genuine parallel to the corresponding
day of the other set.
It is now in place to ask in how far there actually does exist
parallelism between two groups of three days each. That
there is a certain amount of parallelism cannot be denied.
The light of day one and the light-bearers of day four may be
said to sustain a relationship to one another, but they are
not identical. They are not two aspects of the same thing.
The light of day one is called "day" (MOy) and the heavenly
bodies of day four are made to rule the day. That which rules
(the heavenly bodies) and that which is ruled (the day) are
not the same. In the very nature of the case they must be
distinguished. The production of each is introduced by the
short yhiy; ("let there be"). At this point, however, the cor-
Even though there may be a certain parallelism between
the mention of light on day one and the light-bearers of day
four, it is but a parallelism in that light and light-bearers
bear a relationship one to another. What is stated about the
light and the light-bearers, however, is quite different. The
creation of light is the result of God's fiat. God himself then
divides between the light and the darkness. On the fourth
day God makes the light-bearers. Unlike the light of day one,
they do not spring into existence at his creative word.
It must also be noted that the functions of the light and
those of the light-bearers are not parallel. In fact, no function
whatever is given for the light of day one.63 On the other hand,
the light-bearers of day four are brought into existence for
the purpose of serving a world in which dry land and seas
have been separated, a world on which plant and animal life
63 It is true that God calls the light "day", but no statement of function
is made such as is found in connection with the sun and moon.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 29
can exist. The division between light and darkness which
God made on day one was at a time when the world was
covered with water, and there was no firmament.64 The light-
bearers, on the other hand, were placed in the firmament of
heaven, a firmament that was brought into existence only on
the second day. It is obvious, then, that the work of day one
and that of day four are two distinct and different works.
They do not parallel one another, other than that light char-
acterizes one day and light-bearers the other.
Do the second and fifth days parallel one another? On day
two there is a twofold fiat ("let there be a firmament ...
and let it divide") and the fulfillment consists of two acts
of God ("God made ... divided"), followed by a further act
("God called"). On the fifth day there is also a twofold fiat
("let the waters bring forth ... and the fowl let it fly") and
then comes a fulfillment consisting of a threefold creative act
of God ("God created ... great whales. .. every living thing
... every winged fowl") and this is followed by two addi-
tional acts of God ("God saw ... God blessed"). As far as
form is concerned, the parallelism is by no means exact.
Nor is there exact parallelism in content. The swarming
waters and their inhabitants which were created in the fifth
day are not to be identified with the primeval waters of day
two. Rather, it is expressly stated that the fish are to fill the
waters in the seas (verse 22), and the seas were brought into
existence on the third day.65 For that matter, if a mere
parallel with water is sought, we may note that "the waters"
and the "abyss" are mentioned in verse two also.
The birds are created that they may fly above the earth
upon the faces of the expanse of heaven (verse 20). Is this a
parallel to the work of day two? Actually the only parallel
consists in the mention of the word "firmament". Now, it is
true that the birds fly in the firmament, but they also belong
64 Although it is not explicitly stated in verse 2 that the earth was
covered with water, this seems to be implied, and the fiat of verse 9
shows that such was the case. Cf. "The Interpretation of Genesis 1:2",
65 Ridderbos says that this must not be given much weight (Conflict,
p. 35). It is sufficiently weighty, however, to show that the alleged par-
allelism between days two and five is an illusion.
to the earth. They are created first of all to fly above the earth
(Cr,xAhA lfa) and are commanded to multiply in the earth
(Cr,xABA br,yi JOfhAv;). The sphere in which the birds are to
live is explicitly said to be the earth, not the firmament; and
the earth, capable of sustaining bird life, did not appear until
the third day. In the light of these emphases it is difficult to
understand how a parallel between days two and five is present.
Let us briefly examine the relationship between the third
sixth days. There are three fiats on the third day (
ters ... dry land ... earth). The first two are followed by a
threefold act of God ("God called ... called he ... God saw")
and the third fiat is followed by a twofold act ("the earth
brought forth ... God saw"). On the sixth day, following the
fiat and fulfillment with respect to the living creatures, a
unique method of statement is introduced, which has no
parallel in the description of the third day. Indeed, it is
difficult to discover any parallel of thought with the third
day. At best it may be said that the dry land of day three is
the sphere in which man and the animals live. This, however,
is a parallelism which applies only to a part of the third day.
A word must be said about the view that days one, two and
three present the realm and days four, five and six the ruler
in that realm, and that therefore there are two parallel trios
of days.66 With respect to days one and three we may remark
that light is not the sphere in which the light-bearers rule.
The sphere of the primitive light, however, is the day. "God
called the light day." On day four the sphere in which the
light-bearers rule is the day and night to give light upon the
earth. It is true that they are placed in the expanse of heaven,
but this is in order that they may give light upon the earth.
The sphere of the sea creatures of day five is not the firma-
ment of day two but the seas (verse 22) of the earth, and the
sphere in which the birds rule is also the earth (verse 22).
66 This view was set forth by V.
Zapletal: Der Schopfungsbericht,
1902. Zapletal rejects what he calls the scholastic distinction of "opus
distinctionis et opus ornatus", a distinction which, he claims, is influenced
by the Vulgate translation of 2:1 "et omnis ornatus eorum". Instead, he
would emphasize the Hebrew xbAc; and speak of "die Schopfung der Heere
(sabha)" and "die Schopfung der Regionen, der Kampfplatze dieser Heere,"
i. e., "productio regionum et exercituum" (p. 72).
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 31
The same is true of the land animals and man; the spheres
in which they rule is not merely the dry land of day three,
but the entire earth, including the fish of the sea, which God
has prepared for them. The matter may be set forth in tabular
form as follows:
day four light-bearers the earth
day five sea creatures seas of earth
winged fowl earth
day six land animals earth
Thus, the view that days one, two and three present the realm
and days four, five and six the ruler in that realm, is contrary
to the explicit statements of Genesis.
7. The Historiography of Genesis One
The historiography of the Bible, it is said, is not quite the
same as modern historiography.67 Genesis one is thought to
contain a peculiar sort of history, for man is not present to
play a role alongside of God. Often, it is argued, the biblical
writers group their facts together in an artificial manner and
deviate from a chronological order, without any indication of
the fact being given. Indeed, without warning, the biblical
writer may deviate from a chronological order and arrange
his material artificially.
Ridderbos has aptly called attention, for example, to Genesis
two as a passage in which a certain schematic arrangement is
present and he rightly points out that Genesis two is an
67 Quarterly, p. 225; Conflict, p. 30. Visee (op. cit., p. 636) does not wish
to apply the word "history" to Genesis 1, inasmuch as he thinks it is not a
suitable word to use ("niet juist"). Nevertheless, his comments are true
to Scripture. He regards Genesis 1 as a factual account of what actually
took place, but withholds from it the term "history" because it is not an
eyewitness account or the fruit of historical investigation. There can be
no serious objection to this position, although we prefer to apply the term
history to all that has happened, even though our knowledge thereof should
come to us through special divine revelation (e. g., Genesis 1) instead of
by historical investigation.
We do not see what is gained, however, by labelling Genesis 1, Ver-
bondsgeschiedenis (Popma, op. cit., p. 622). Genesis 1 is the divine revela-
tion of the creation. That point must be insisted upon.
introduction to the account of the fall of man.68 Genesis two
may well serve as an example of a passage of Scripture in
which chronological considerations are not paramount. This
will be apparent if we simply list certain matters mentioned
in the chapter.
1. God formed man (verse 7).
2. God planted a garden (verse 8a).
3. God placed the man in the garden (verse 8b).
4. God caused the trees to grow (verse 9a).
5. God placed the man in the garden (verse 15a).
It is obvious that a chronological order is not intended here.
How many times did God place man in the garden? What did
God do with man before he placed him in the garden? How
many times did God plant the garden, or did God first plant
a garden and then later plant the trees? Clearly enough Moses
here has some purpose other than that of chronology in mind.
In chapter two events are narrated from the standpoint
of emphasis, in preparation for the account of the fall.69
Looked at from this viewpoint, the chapter is remarkably
rich in meaning. First of all we may note that it is not a
duplicate or second account of creation. Hence, we should
not make the mistake of trying to force its "order of events"
into harmony with the order of events given in chapter one.
The section begins by giving us a barren earth, for there
had been no rain and there was no man to till the ground.
God, however, did not desire man to dwell in a barren earth
but in a garden, for man was to be God's guest on this earth.
Hence, God will prepare a dwelling place for him. First the
ground is watered and then man is created. For man the
garden is made, God's garden, and man is placed therein.
The garden, however, is a place of exquisite beauty, and trees
are made to grow therein. Thus we are prepared for the
prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. Further information about the location of
the garden and its well-watered character is then given, that
we may learn that its trees will truly thrive. There, in a place
of great charm, man is placed as God's servant to work the
68 Op. Cit., pp. 26 f.
69 Cf. W. H. Green: The Unity of the Book of Genesis,
pp. 7-36, for an excellent discussion of the nature of Genesis 2.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 33
garden. The garden is not Adam's but God's, and God alone
may prescribe the manner in which Adam is to live therein.
Adam is forbidden to partake of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil.
When this important matter is disposed of, Moses then
introduces a question that has to do with man's relation to
his environment. His relation to God, however, must first be
made clear (verses 16, 17) and then that to his environment.
He is not to live alone, but is to have the animals as his
helpers. Yet they are not sufficient to correspond to him;
only the woman can be such a help. Her creation is then
related, and Adam recognizes her who was to show herself a
hindrance as a help that is essentially one with himself. One
final point must be mentioned to prepare for the account of
the fall. Adam and Eve were naked, yet not ashamed. They
were good, and no evil was found in them.
What Moses does in Genesis two is truly remarkable. He
emphasizes just those points which need to be stressed, in
order that the reader may be properly prepared to understand
the account of the fall.70 Are we, however, warranted in
assuming that, inasmuch as the material in Genesis two is
arranged in a non-chronological manner, the same is likely to
be true of Genesis one? It is true that in Genesis one man is
not present until the sixth day, but is this sufficient warrant for
claiming that the days are to be taken in a non-chronological
In the very nature of the case Genesis one is sui generis.
Its content could have been known only by special communica-
tion from God. Obviously, it is not a history of mankind,
but it is the divine revelation of the creation of heaven and
earth and of man, and it is to be interpreted only upon the
basis of serious exegesis. The fact that Genesis two discusses
its subject in a partly non-chronological manner really has
70 "This phenomenon (i. e., that in prophetic and apocalyptic writings
"events are telescoped, grouped, and arranged in a given manner") should
make us hospitable toward the idea that in Genesis 1, which treats not the
distant future but the unimaginable distant past, we should encounter the
same sort of thing" (Conflict, p. 39). But Genesis 1 is sui generis; it is
to be interpreted only on its own merits, and only by means of a serious
attempt to ascertain the meaning of the author.
little bearing upon how Genesis one is to be interpreted.
Genesis one must be interpreted upon its own merit.
8. Analogy of Other Passages
This same consideration must be emphasized in answer to
the appeal made to other passages of Scripture. Thus, it is
pointed out that certain visions of John, although they are
heptadic in structure, nevertheless, do not exhibit a strictly
chronological sequence. Whether they exhibit a chronological
sequence or not may sometimes be difficult to determine, but
it is really an irrelevant consideration, for even if all the
events in Revelation were narrated without regard for chrono-
logical considerations, that fact in itself would not prove that
the first chapter of Genesis was to be so interpreted. Although
the book of Revelation is identified as containing words of
prophecy, it nevertheless is an apocalypse in the sense that
Daniel also is an apocalypse. Together with the book of
Daniel it forms a unique literary genre which is not matched
or equalled by the non-canonical apocalypses. It is not always
to be interpreted in the same manner as writing which is
truly historical. If, therefore, there are passages in Revelation
which are to be interpreted in a non-chronological manner,
this in itself is really an irrelevant consideration. It has noth-
ing to do with the manner in which the historical writing of
Genesis one is to be interpreted. If Revelation is to be a
guide for the interpretation of Genesis one, then it must be
shown that Genesis one is of the same literary genre as Revela-
tion. This, we believe, cannot be successfully done.
In this connection it may be remarked that appeal to other
passages of Scripture in which a non-chronological order of
statement is found is really beside the point. No one denies
that there are such passages. What must be denied is the idea
that the presence of such passages somehow supports the view
that Genesis one is to be interpreted non-chronologically.71
(to be concluded)
71 The following passages are generally adduced in this connection,
Gen. 2; II Kg. 23:4-10; Ps. 78:44 ff.; Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:13, 16-30;
Matt. 13:53-58. Cf. Conflict, pp. 37f.
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