Westminster Theological Journal 25 (1962-3) 1-34.

        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

Utrecht published a work whose title may be translated,

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 Natural Science?, Grand Rapids, 1957. The origi-

nal work bears the title, Beschouwingen over Genesis I, Assen.

   4 See J. O. Morgan: Moses and Myth, London, 1932; N. H. Ridderbos:

op. cit.; Meredith G. Kline: "Because It Had Not Rained", Westminster

Theological Journal, Vol. XX, No. 2 (May 1958), pp. 146-157; Bernard

Ramm: The Christian View of Science and Scripture, Grand Rapids, 1954,

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-

schiedenis en daarom kan men Genesis 1 anders opvatten dan Genesis 2

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,

mythe, e.d.".

   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

Genesis, Nashville, 1961, p. 13, remarks that creation was event, and

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. New York,

1957, p. 399, and a discussion of this view in Young: Thy Word Is Truth,

Grand Rapids, 1957, pp. 245 ff.


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-

mentary, New York, 1922, p. 293) remarks, “’Ec may be taken to denote

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

kataklusqei>j a]pw<leto.

   25 James Moffatt (The International Critical Commentary, New York,

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

to science.

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 kan natuurlijk in ieder

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, Grand Rapids, 1953, I:vi:2, p. 66,

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

Testament, Grand Rapids, 1949, Vol. I, p. 50).

   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

Ptah. Cf. James Pritchard: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Princeton, 1950,

p. 5a.

   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

by him.

   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"

(Gen. 2:4a).

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, Gottingen, 1953, p. 58). The English translation renders

"The Yahwistic Story of Paradise" (Genesis, Philadelphia, MCMLXI,

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, New York,

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, New York,

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

Paradise which is to be man's earthly home.48

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

here at all, but simply the planting of the garden in Eden" (Keil: op. cit.,

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

this word as "mist". Thus, LXX, phgh<; Aquila, e]piblusmo<j; Vulgate,

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

made to Samuel N. Kramer: Enki and Ninhursag, New Haven, 1945,

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

necessarily follow.

    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

Minden bildete, wie der Topfer den Ton knetet" (Die Urgeschichte and die

Patriarchen, Gottingen, 1921 (Die Schriften des Alten Testaments, 1/1,

p. 55)).




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

Grammar, Oxford, 1910, p. 314). William Henry Green (A Grammar of

the Hebrew Language, New York, 1891, p. 313) also renders used to go up,

"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

and Three", Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 2 (May 1959),

pp. 133-146.




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-

respondence ceases.

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",

Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. XXIII, No. 2 (May 1961), p. 171.

   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

and sixth days. There are three fiats on the third day (wa-

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, Freiburg,

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:


                                                RULER                       REALM

day four                      light-bearers              the earth

day five                       sea creatures              seas of earth

                                                winged fowl               earth

day six                        land animals               earth

                                                man                             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, New York, 1895,

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.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

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            2960 W. Church Rd.

            Glenside, PA  19038


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu