APPENDIX VI

THE COVENANTAL SABBATH 


LENGTH OF CREATION DAYS

The theories of interpretation of this "creation week" (Gen. 1:3-2:3) are legion. Pari passu, there is the "actual daysí theory" [cf. in Bavinck ("Geref. Dogm.", 1928, 11:4, p. 452f); Noordtzij: Gods Woord, II, 1931, p. 106f); and in Aalders ("De Goddelijke Openbaring in die Eerste Drie Hoofdstukken van Genesis", 1932, p. 229f); Keil ("Genesis und Exodus", Keil-Delitzsch Kommentar, 1878, p. 13f); J. C. Whitcomb, Jr. and H. M. Morris ("The Genesis Flood", 1961, p. 228)] and the Ďunusual daysí theory" [cf. H. Bavinck, op. cit., 1928, 11:4, p. 4600; Aalders (op. cit., p. 246f, esp. p. 253 "licht continu"); and De Bondt (op. cit., p. 224f)]. Then there are the "concordistic theories", which seek to reconcile Scripture and the claims of (generally anti- or unscriptural) current natural science, some of which theories seek to interpret the Genesis days as each lasting for millions of years, and others which assume interperiodistic gaps lasting millions of years between each creation day. Thirdly, there are various "representation theories" (such as those of Philo, Origen, Augustine, Van der Ploeg ("Het Zesdagenwerk der Schepping", 1950, p. 24f), Strack ("Die Genesis" (Strack-Zockler, II, 1905, p. 8f)), E. KŲnig ("Die Genesis", 1925, II, 3, pp. 171f, 177), Noordtzij (op. cit., p. 111f) ("ideal theory"), Delleman ("Wording van Mens en Wereld", undated, p. 51f), and Reniť ("Les origines de líhumanitť", 1950, p. 23f). H. N. Ridderbos ("Beschouwingen over Genesis Een", Kok, Kampen, 1963, p. 66) maintains in his "framework theory" that Genesis one is an inexact story, declaring anthropomorphically that God first works for six (literal) days before He rests, but that these days are not real days, and that the order of the various occurrences is not necessarily as listed. Dooyeweerd ("De verhouding tussehen Wijsbegeerte en Theologie") maintains that the creation days do not fall within any time order, because the latter belongs to the creation, as does Lever ("Creatie en Evolutie", p. 174-81) [both in Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 123, cf. further pp. 9-12], whereas Zimmerli (I Mose 1-11, I Teil, 1942, p. 119 cf. p. 11) accepts (without being bound thereby) the "six day theory", even though manís present image of the world has completely changed.

Among (other) conservative scholars, there is also a wide spectrum.

Seventh-day Advenists, Vos, Hepp, Feenstra, Gispen, and Berkhof (thus Marsh op. cit., Berkhof: "Syst. Theol.", pp. 154-5; Feenstra: op. cit., pp. 86-7), maintain that Gen. 1 is most naturally interpreted as referring to seven periods of twenty-four hours each, the period thus being precisely equivalent to the week as we know it today. Harris, Miley, Bettex, Geesink, Shedd, Hodge, et al. (thus Berkhof: "Syst. Theol.", p. 152) hold that it is impossible to establish the length of these days, seeing that the word "day" is so variously used in Scripture itself to denote periods of time ranging from twelve hours to thousands of years. Honig, Kuyper, Bavinck and Aalders, et al. (thus Berkhof: ibid., p. 154) hold that as the sun and the moon were only made on the fourth day as "signs . . . for days . . . to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness" (Gen. 1:14-8), only the subsequent days may with any certainty be regarded as being of twenty-four hours each in duration, so that the first three days were consequently qualitatively and quantitatively different from the last three. Yet as Young remarks ("Studies in Genesis One", Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., Philadelphia, U.S.A., 1964, pp. 103-5), "the six days are to be understood in a chronological sense . . . the length of the days is not stated . . . Gen. 1 is not poetry or saga or myth, but straight forward, trustworthy history".

The writerís own view is that this last view seems to be the most acceptable. Some Seventh-day Adventists (e.g. Andreasen: "The Sabbath", p. 18 et seq.) seem to imply that every Christian who prefers creation days longer than twenty-four hours each, is something of an evolutionist! The truth is, of course, that there is no means of establishing precisely how long at least the first three days were, for, as pointed out above, the sun and moon were only appointed as time-keepers on the fourth day.

Furthermore, the expression "it was evening and it was morning" in respect of the first three days at least, can hardly be limited to a "sun-day" or "moon-day" of twenty-four hours, otherwise God would most certainly have appointed the sun and the moon as time-keepers on or before the first day! However, it pleased the Lord to appoint them specifically for the purpose of marking fixed times and days and years ONLY on the fourth day (Gen. 1:14). Therefore, it seems, there were NO solar days (or lunar nights) before the fourth day. Hence, the expression "it was evening and it was morning" in Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, cannot necessarily be limited to exactly a (solar) day of twenty-four hours ó it may have been longer, or shorter.

Yet even in respect of the fourth, fifth and sixth days, Godís Word does not declare that the earth was then turning on its axis and still less that it then rotated once every twenty-four hours (as opposed to say every twenty-four seconds or centuries), but Godís Word merely declares that sun and moon were then (thenceforth) ruling over the day and the night and dividing the light from the darkness.

Some Seventh-day Adventist scholars (e.g. Prof. Marsh: "Creation") further maintain that at least the third to fifth days could not have been more than forty-eight hours; otherwise, they argue, how could the plants have been pollinated (without bees)? But this argument shows traces of the false theory of naturalism, which would limit Godís creation and the maintenance thereof to purely natural laws! We have in any case always, and during Godís creation week most certainly, a supra-naturally created creation. Only later did natural law become the general rule in respect of the government of Godís creation: on the Seventh Day, when God rested from His supranatural creativeness, and blessed and hallowed His creation, henceforth to be maintained generally by natural (but no less God-given) principles.

Seventh-day Adventists (Marsh, op. cit., e.g.) admit that "yŰm" (day) can be variously translated "day"; "time"; "today"; "forever"; "continually"; "age"; "life"; "perpetually"; etc.; depending on the context wherein "yŰm" is used. Now precisely in respect of the context of these days of creation recorded by Moses in Genesis one are we informed in the prayer of Moses (Ps. 90:1), that a thousand years in Godís sight are but as yesterday when it is past; and Peter too, again writing precisely in respect of creation and re-creation, is at pains to point out (II Pet. 3:1f) that this one fact is not to be ignored, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Of course, the days of creation, particularly the first three, might have been even only two seconds each in duration! But precisely in connection with the creation, it has been seen that Moses and the Psalmist and Peter all seem to favour an indeterminably long duration of the creation days.

Further, it should be noted that it is Moses himself who uses this Hebrew word ("yŰm") for "day" not only in Gen. 1:1-2:3, but also in Gen. 2:4, in which latter place it refers NOT to the initial immediate creation ("bara") of the earth and the heavens, but to the whole process of their subsequent manufacture ("'asah") from those previously immediately created raw materials; and that this subsequent manufacture, this "day", endured for at least (!) one hundred and forty-four hours and not for only twenty-four hours; that is to say, it endured for at least six solar "days", and not for only one solar "day".

Christ Himself probably implied that Godís creation sabbath, His Seventh "Day" on which He rested from His creation works, had (even by the time of Christís incarnation thousands of years later) not yet as then drawn to its close. Christ, on being cross-examined by the sabbath-conscious Jews as to His doing good works of reparation and maintenance of human bodies on the weekly sabbath, justified the execution of these works of His on that sabbath by answering: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (that is to say, "My Father did not cease from His work of maintaining His creatures on His sabbath, but this work of His is still continuing even on this sabbath, and therefore neither do I cease from my work of maintaining (and repairing) My creatures on the sabbath"). Hence, Christ here probably regards at least the Seventh Day of creation week as indeterminably long, lasting from the sixth day of creation week probably until (at least!) this point (John 5) in His own public ministry on earth ó a period of at least four thousand years! And the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 4:1-11) indicates that Godís creation rest lasted from His creation sabbath at least until Calvary, if not much longer, namely even until the end of this present earthly time. At any rate, it is clear that this Seventh "Day" of creation week has lasted at least four thousand years long ó and if this was so of the Seventh Day, could it not be true of at least the first, second and third "days", before sun and moon were appointed time-keepers, if not in fact of all seven "days" of creation?!

Surely these excerpts from the Word of God should make one ponder cautiously before being too dogmatic here! Strict adherence to the precise words of Scripture in its entirety, and wariness in respect of evolutionistic OR anti-evolutionistic philosophical presuppositions, should always guide theological investigations. Therefore, totally ignoring the theory of evolution, it is to be concluded from Godís Word alone in its sole authority and entirety [e.g., Moses ó Gen. 2:4: the Psalmist and Moses ó Ps. 90:1f; Peter ó II Pet. 3:1f; Jesus John 5:16-7; and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 4:1f)], that it is almost certain that at least the Seventh "Day" as well as the first three "days" of the creation week were not exactly twenty-four hours long, but (although it is not impossible that some of them were shorter) all these "days" were very probably indeterminably longer than the solar days of twenty-four hours on which some Seventh-day Adventists and certain other Christians (without any Scriptural warrant whatsoever) insist.

The writer thus finds himself in substantial agreement with the views of Kelman ("The Sabbath of Scripture", pp. 261f), who argues:

God is the author alike of the volume of inspiration, and of that other volume whose leaves are the strata of the earthís crust; and therefore we may rest assured that the real teaching of the one volume will not contradict that of the other. There may, indeed, on manís part, be mistakes, on the one hand, in interpreting the language of Holy Scripture, and, on the other hand, in mastering the lessons which are taught in Godís rocky volume of geology; and these mistakes may give rise to apparent contradictions and discrepancies. Such contradictions and discrepancies, however, are only apparent; and, as the science of geology advances, and correct principles of interpreting the Word of God prevail, the difficulties gradually melt way, and often completely disappear.

To a person at all adequately acquainted with the facts (we do not speak of the mere hypotheses or the speculations) of geology, it must appear ó to say the least of it ó exceedingly improbable, that the earth could have been in the condition described in Genesis i. 2, within the space of six literal days before the appearance of man upon it: this, therefore, would seem to indicate that the days of creation were not literal days of twenty-four hoursí length, but long periods of time

"Besides, it" [the "twenty-four hour day creation week theory" ó N.L.] "is opposed to the teaching of Scripture. For even in Genesis ii., Godís day of rest, unlike His days of work, has no evening mentioned as belonging to it: there is nothing to indicate that it had reached its close. And in Hebrews iv. we learn that the rest, into which God entered at the creation of the world, continues still. According to the teaching of Scripture, therefore, Godís seventh day was not a literal day of twenty-four hoursí duration, but a long period of time, which has already extended over several thousand years. And, if Godís seventh day is a protracted period, would not analogy require that the other six days should, as regards duration, be of a similar character?

Without further arguing the relative merits and demerits of the various conservative schools of thought (which all maintain that the work of the first day only commenced with: "And God said . . .in Gen. 1: 3), it would seem that the immediate context of the following second to sixth days of creation week (all of which likewise commence with references to the creative Word of God, "And God said, . . ."), that Godís rest on the Seventh Day involves Him resting only from that part of His actual work which He performed during the first six days (which work may be termed the formatio or formation in the narrower sense), as opposed to that previous part of His actual work performed before the first day (which work may be termed the creatio or creation in the wider sense, as recorded in Gen. 1:1-2). For if the creatio (in addition to the formatio) were relevant to Godís seventh day rest, it would destroy the whole symmetry of the hebdomadal or sevenfold cycle of the week of the earthís formation. (See n. 13a).
 



 

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