Responding to an Old Earth Argument: Are the Days in Genesis Actually Long Ages?

Dec 12, 2017 | Apologetics, Article, Creation

This article is written as a response to another blogger’s article which deals with the age of the earth. In it, she suggests that the Earth is actually very old in accordance with secular dating methods, and claims her reasons have a sufficient basis in the writings of Scripture alone (which she supplements with the work of other ancient writers and a few scientific references). I am going to respond to her thoughts, and at the end, give a very brief reason for why I do not believe an old earth is compatible with God’s Word or God’s World. Her comments will be in italics. Keep in mind–nothing said here is meant to be a personal attack on this blogger or anyone who holds a similar view. She is a very sweet person who should be treated with the utmost respect, despite the fact that we disagree.


//I am an English major so I’ve always been very interested in language and words. Since I have been a Christian since I was eight years old and grew up Southern Baptist, I have always been surrounded by many strong Christian influences. Every single one of them believes that our Earth is young and I never had reason to question that.//

My story is similar. I was saved at the age of four years old, raised in an Independent Baptist church, and have always been surrounded by Christian influences who believe the Earth and universe are young. I have never seen a reason to question this, and a plain reading of God’s Word seems to indicate this, as many current old-earth creationists have admitted to me personally.

//But when I started college I began to study different authors, genres of books, and their origins.//

There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but I feel I should stop here and point something out. Obviously, the title of her article (Reasons to Believe in an Old Earth) and the word “but” which starts this sentence suggest that the direction of her story is about to change.

I’m not sure where the author went to college–it may have been a Christian college–it may have even been a college who endorses a young earth. I don’t know. But, I do know that most Christian colleges have begun to support an old earth from a scientific perspective, so I cannot help but wonder if, in the author’s study of different books, their origins, etc., there was any scientific pressure to start investigating this issue.

In other words, it would be highly unusual for a student to start studying language and randomly begin to investigate a single word’s usage in Genesis one–“Day”–which she never had any reason to question, without there being a deeper reason for the investigation. Again–I don’t mean to call her motives into question, it just seems there is more to the story.

//That led into a study of individual languages which is where I took an interest in Hebrew. As I’ve spend time studying the language I’ve come to realize that English has words that allow for much more in depth descriptions of things. For example, the word “yom” actually translates to day, or a long period of time. I had always been taught that yom in Hebrew meant a literal 24 hour day. Some of my own personal studies have suggested otherwise…based on the language in scripture alone.//

I agree with the author here. The Hebrew word “Yom” most certainly has many different meanings. Similarly, we use the word “day” to mean many different things in the English language.

For example, we might say, “Back in my Father’s day, he was an all-star football player.” This indicates a particular time period. We could also ask, “Which day next week are you available for an appointment?” This speaks of a literal, 24-hour day. Still, we might ask, “Tomorrow, during the day, would you run some errands for me?” Indicating a period of lightness.

The elephant in the room here is context. Each of these meanings, in context, is clearly understood. The context of the first example is one man’s lifetime. So there is a limit to the usage of the word, “day.” In the second, the phrase “next week” limits the word “day” to mean a fixed, 24-hour period that does not extend past the next week. The final example limits the word “day” by implication that by the time nightfall hits, it will be too late to run these errands.

It is impossible–indeed, fallacious–to interpret the meaning of “day” in the above examples to mean anything other than the surrounding context indicates. Can the word “day” even be used in a way in which its context is not clear? Is this what happened in Genesis one? Should the days in Genesis one be treated any differently in their interpretation than when observed in the rest of the Bible? More on that in a bit.

//For example, John 5: 16-18 says: “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too am working.’” I believe that this verse suggests evidence that the seventh day is an ongoing rest period. Jesus’ is trying to tell them that He is honoring the Sabbath in the way that God does. “That is, His Father works “to this very day” even though “this very day” is part of His Sabbath rest. (H.Ross, 74 A Matter of Days) It goes on to say that God honors the sabbath by resting from creating things.//

Sadly, as well-intentioned as I believe that Dr. Ross is, this is an area where he often attempts to discredit one of the Genesis days in an effort to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” His error here is that he is using a scientific interpretation to interpret Scripture rather than using Scripture to interpret Scripture as the Bible itself indicates we must do (see 2 Peter 1:20, for example).

The writer to the Hebrews clearly addresses this claim: Hebrews 4:3-4–“For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.”

Not only does this passage clearly teach that “the works were finished from the foundation of the world”–in other words, God has finished His work of creation and is now in His sustaining work (Hebrews 1:3), but this passage clearly indicates that God rested on THE seventh day! It says God did rest the seventh day. So, we have the word “did” indicating a finite action in the past, and the phrase “the seventh day” to limit the context to a literal day as we would understand it. There is no literary device in this text which suggests that the word “day” could mean a long, continuous age.

//Going along with this point is that after creation days 1-6, God always says, “And there was evening and there was morning, the _____ day”. After creation day 7 all He says is, “…God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2: 3).] This leads me to believe that the seventh day is an ongoing period of time; from the moment God stopped creating things up until this moment.//

See above. Once again, context is key. The Bible certainly indicates that God is still working today. But he is not creating today, rather, He is sustaining. See Hebrews 1:3, Job 38:33-37, Psalm 135:6-7, Matthew 10:29-30, Colossians 1:17, etc. God clearly rested from creation on the seventh day, and now, is upholding all the things together by the word of His power.

Furthermore, this text says that God “rested”–not that He “began to rest.” Again, the language suggests a past action, and should not lead anyone to believe that this is an ongoing period of time.

Even more problematic for this view is what is to be done with Exodus 20:11. This passage uses the word “yamim” (the plural form of “Yom”), which always refers to a collection of literal, 24-hour days and is never used to indicate long ages. God is quite clearly establishing the 7-day work week, and using HIS 7-day work week as its basis and foundation.

I hate to be facetious, but we don’t work for six regular days and then rest for thousands of years. This pattern of irregular creation days suggested by Dr. Ross and this blogger is simply not warranted in the text–anywhere in Scripture.

//So if the seventh day suggests a period of at least several thousand years that must also suggest that days 1-6 aren’t literally 24 hour increments.//

Of course, I don’t agree that the seventh day suggests several thousand years (see above), but even if it did, no such suggestion is made concerning the other days. If one did choose to ignore the rest of Scripture and interpret this seventh day as a period of a few thousand years, this does not magically remove the evening, morning, and number reference which does accompany the others, nor the definite article which accompanies many of them.

Allow me to make a bold proclamation at this point: There is no textual reason to believe that the first three days were long ages, the second three regular, 24-hour days, and the final a period of thousands of years (continuing until this very day). This confusing interpretation of the creation week has no Scriptural basis and should not be considered a faithful interpretation of the text.

Some have suggested that the creation of the Sun on Day 4 is problematic for the young age view. But it certainly is not. For further reading, I have addressed this issue here.

//I also spent some time studying early writers such as Augustine, Philo, and Josephus. It’s amazing that these men (Philo lived as early as 45 years prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) believed that the Earth is much older than what young earthers believe it to be today.//

I have heard others use this line of argumentation, but I’ve never understood why. The church fathers and other writers of antiquity are certainly important and influential, but if we truly have God’s Word today, why must they be used to bolster our favored interpretation rather than just accepting what God Himself wrote down? Furthermore, I have never seen these men give an estimation of the supposed “long ages of time” creation “must have taken.” Certainly, I have never seen “billions of years” enter into the picture until men like Dr. Charles Lyell and Darwin came on the scene.

It seems that many OEC’s pick and choose writers and highlight the ones in support of their view. Dr. Terry Mortenson contends (footnotes from original article included),

“For eighteen centuries the almost universal belief of the Church was that the creation began 4,000–5,000 years before Christ.16 So, young-earth creationism is historic Christian orthodoxy. It was also Jewish orthodoxy at least up to the end of the first century of church history.17 In light of this fact, it seems inconsistent with the truth-loving nature of God revealed in Scripture to think that for about 3,000 years God let faithful Jews and Christians (especially the writers of Scripture) believe that Genesis teaches a literal six-day creation about 6,000 years ago but that in the early nineteenth century He used godless men (scientists who rejected the Bible as God’s inerrant Word) to correct the Church’s understanding of Genesis.18

The majority of the reformers held the young earth view as well, as described in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), for example.

//Philo expressed that he believed that the days were a figure of speech that were a metaphor for order and completeness. A quote by Philo:

“It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days or in a space of time at all. Why? Because every period of time is a series of days and nights, and these can only be made such by movement of the sun as it goes over and under the earth; but the sun is a part of heaven, so that time is confessedly more recent than the world. It would therefore be correct to say that the world was not made in time, but that time was formed by means of the world, for it was heaven’s movement that was the index of the nature of time. When, then, Moses says, ‘He finished His work on the sixth day,’ we must understand him to be adducing not a quantity of days, but a perfect number, namely six”.//

This is interesting to me. Admittedly, I am not very familiar with the writings of Philo, nor I am familiar with Philo himself or his views. But this direct quote is very troubling and puzzling to me for many reasons.

First, he claims it is “quite foolish to think that world was created in six days or in a space of time at all.” But, why is this foolish? Is it because he has a view of God that is different from what God said Himself? I think so. It is only foolish if imagined in the minds of men; if written down by God, however, it is not foolish–it is truth. Though I know almost nothing about this man, this quote demonstrates a rather low view of Scripture, in my opinion.

He goes on to give a reason for his opening statement. But he makes two very fatal assumptions. First, he does not seem to be aware of the fact that it is the rotation of the earth which is responsible for the “time” element of an ordinary day–not the fact that the Sun rises and sets. This is a common mistake made by OEC’s. Surprising in that Dr. Ross, a well-respected astronomer, and astrophysicist, does not seem to take this into account. All that is required for “evening and morning” is the rotation of the earth and a light source. Both of which were present on Day 1 of creation.

His second fatal assumption is that the Sun has always been a part of the heavens. Just because it is there now does not mean it always has been, as is clearly demonstrated by the first verses of Genesis. Indeed–this man seems to have trouble simply taking God at His Word.

His view of time also appears to be incorrect. Genesis 1:1 states that in the beginning (time) God created the heavens (space) and the Earth (matter). Therefore, time was put in place simultaneously with space and matter. This must be. For if there was no time, when would you put the space and the matter? This is known as a continuum. God brought all three together actually at the same time–but he did not create our Sun until day four. Again, you can read more about that here.

He further comments on Moses but does not (at least in this particular quote) give a good reason for having to accept what he claims. Why accept what Moses said as a perfect number, instead of “a quantity of days”? There is no textual reason for doing this–especially considering that we know God did intend for us to understand this in the context of ordinary days because the purpose was to establish our work week (again, see Exodus 20).

This very loose interpretation of Scripture causes me to call into question what other views this ancient writer might also hold very loosely. Ought we hold to the virgin birth loosely because, in all of our experience, only non-virgins give birth? Something to consider.

//Augustine in The City of God, wrote, “As for these ‘days’ it is difficult, perhaps impossible to think -let alone explain in words-what they mean”. He also writes “But at least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar.” He also states later, “Seven days by our reckoning after the model of the days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting, but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis).//

Again, this is a quote I have heard often from OEC believers, but a bit of research into Saint Augustine’s actual views helps to shed some light on his position.

Dr. Simon Turpin writes,

“Saint Augustine is often cited as someone who allegorized Genesis or took the days to represent long periods of time. In fact, the truth is that he did not believe the days were vast expanses of time or that the earth was very old. Rather, he believed that the Earth was thousands of years old (Augustine 1972, 12:10), and he made precisely the opposite mistake of believing that creation was instantaneous, due to the outside influence of neo-Platonic philosophy. Augustine understood from Genesis 2:4 that everything was created simultaneously. However, he had to rely on the Old Latin translation of the Bible, the Vetas Latina, which mistranslated the Hebrew in this verse. Since he did not know Hebrew, he did not know this and was most likely unaware that the Hebrew word for “instant” rega‘- Exodus. 33:5; Numbers 16:21) is not used in Genesis 2:4 (Sarfati 2004, p.118).”

Therefore, I believe that Saint Augustine’s view is not only unhelpful for the OEC cause but also demonstrates a misunderstanding of Scripture. He brings up a good point, however. God certainly could have created instantly. Which raises the question, why didn’t He? There is an answer to this question, yet again, found in Exodus 20:11–to establish a pattern for our work week! This is the only place in Scripture which gives any indication as to why God created in the way He did, and this understanding is simply not consistent with millions or billions of years.

I would be more apt to believe that God created instantly rather than using deep time because to me, that would be a more excellent display of His glory, and this is the way in which His earthly miracles were performed.

Nevertheless, God did it the way He did, and even told us why He did it the way that He did. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.

//The bible often uses the phrase, “…in the day of the Lord” which does not refer to a specific 24 hour day but instead means a period of time. The Hebrew word used here to describe day is Yom, the exact word used to describe the creation days.//

Again–no problem here, because the context is exactly how we would use it to describe a “day” that was not meant to be literal (i.e., “IN my father’s DAY; IN the DAY of the Lord). However, this is a perfect place to ask a question. I welcome any OEC to answer it in the comments:

How, in your estimation, would God have phrased Genesis 1 to mean 24-hour days if NOT how He did? How, other than adding the evening, morning, the number, in some cases the definite article–all of which give context for a literal, 24-hr day–should He have put it to be more clear?

If you answer that question for me, please take into account the fact that the context in Exodus 20:11 is also very pertinent to this question, because it seems to put the final nail in the coffin.

//These are just some of the evidence I’ve found based solely on language, scripture and writings of early church writers. I have also been very impressed with how recent scientific discoveries have backed up scripture. I believe God reveals himself to us daily in and throughout nature and He tells us this in the Word.
Job 27; 7-10
Psalm 19; 1
Romans 1; 20 (my favorite)//

I love these verses as well, and they have a welcome home in the YEC view. I too am amazed at recent scientific discoveries. Recent evidence from genetics, epigenetics, paleontology, geology, astronomy, etc., have confirmed the recent creation we find in God’s Word (see examples below).

//And here are some links to my favorite websites where I read up on new scientific discoveries which continue to back up the theory of the earth being much older than believed. I love that recently astrologers have been able to look back in time to observe the earth moments after it was created. The scientists have taken measurements of how far the light has traveled over a certain period of time and applied that to trace back to earth’s beginning. I’m not great at explaining things in scientific terms…I can read it and understand it but trying to explain it to someone else trips me up. Here is a link to one article on what I’m trying to share (

(She also included these articles):


I am sure that the author means astronomers* here and not astrologers. It is a common claim that astronomers can look back in time. I hear Dr. Ross say this often. But this is wildly begging the question. They are only looking back in time (at least, billions of years) if it is assumed that distance between stars is a property of time, but it is not.

A light year is a measure of distance–not time.

Distant starlight should NOT be used as an OEC argument at all because, on the best big bang models, they can only get light halfway across the universe (look up The Horizon Problem). YEC’s and OEC’s alike have a “starlight time-travel problem”, and many YEC models have been suggested (see Dr. Jason Lisle’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention for my model of choice) which could reconcile the issues. This is a moot point. There is no definitive nor universally accepted YEC answer to this problem. But the big bang inflation theories that have been proposed to correct for The Horizon Problem suffer the same fate.


A Few Additional Comments and Conclusion


The fact is that most scientific discoveries actually fit just as well (if not better) within the YEC paradigm. This is clearly seen, for example, in speciation and the geologic column. In rare tests where a head to head comparison actually takes place between an OEC and YEC model, the YEC model usually best fits the data (see, for example, this study on mtDNA).

Discoveries in biology and baraminology, such as soft dinosaur tissue and the vast differences between hominid fossils thought to belong to human ancestors in the distant past, have moved forward the “necessary time” once thought to make better sense of these discoveries.

In blind radiometric dating tests where rocks of known age (less than 50 years old) were dated in a laboratory, the results were between hundreds of thousands to millions of years (see the RATE project conducted by ICR), therefore demonstrating that the secular “absolute” dating methods are at best unreliable and more truthfully, downright deceitful.

From an Astronomy standpoint, blue stars, spiral galaxies, magnetic fields, short-period comments, and the Faint Sun Paradox have long pointed to an age much less than 13.8 billion years.

In conclusion, there seem to be no Scriptural or scientific reasons why we must accept an age for the Earth or the universe much larger than around 6100 years. God did it in six days, around 6,000 years ago, just as the first words in our Bible have taught us for as long as they have been written.

Recommended Further Reading:

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