The “literal” interpretation of Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 days of creation…taken as a whole to describe a standard week of time…to support the doctrine of a young earth of six to eight thousand years old…is in actuality unbiblical.
The one-week interpretation of the seven days of creation is unbiblical for two main reasons.
First, it assumes a meaning for seven days of creation as consecutive 24-hour days…equaling one-week…when the words themselves do not actually say that.
The words say that there were seven distinct days of creation…but they say nothing about connecting these creation days head-to-tail to form a continuous one-week period of time.
A one-week period of time is the natural conclusion that people can draw from the words…but this is not the one and only plausible interpretation…not even the best interpretation…as history has shown.
The wording in Genesis 1:5, 1:8, 2:3 and 2:4, and Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 regarding the days of creation is perfect and divinely brilliant…because these verses are timeless and accurate when they were written in around 1,450 BC…for pre-modern science prior to the Scientific Revolution and for modern science today.
The words chosen for these verses in Genesis and Exodus are not vague and ambiguous…they are precisely measured to allow for the addition of future, progressive truth.
Only a God possessing divine foresight can reveal truth in a progressive manner over time…that is true as earlier prophecy or as statements about the natural world…which still remains true and are improved upon by the addition of further information…as in the cases of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53…for example.
The language of the words conveyed in the four verses in Genesis 1:5, 1:8, 2:3, and 2:4…and in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17…can also be viewed as distinct 24-hour periods of God creating…with long periods of time in-between.
It is unbiblical to say that these verses in Genesis and Exodus regarding the creation days…are the last word…are the final word on the age of the earth…because this removes one of the most compelling apologetic arguments for the divine origin of the Bible…the argument that only the living God could inspire statements about the creation of the universe and the earth…recorded in the Bible…that seamlessly accepts additional revisions of new enlightening information…hundreds and even thousands of years later…while still remaining true at the original time they were recorded in writing in the Bible.
The Bible…as it is being composed over a 1,500-year period…is like a jigsaw puzzle that has missing pieces in a mixed pile…as-yet to be found and placed as the puzzle is being completed…that fit perfectly when found and snugly fit into place.
This unique aspect of the Bible is a profound evidence for its divine origin…and is a novel and innovative revelation of another real truth about God.
This leads to the second major problem with a literal interpretation of the days of creation as being one-week.
The hugely misguided viewpoint that the investigations of modern science into the workings of the natural world…somehow fall outside of the Bible…as if the dating of an old earth according to modern geology…is information that is extra-biblical or anti-biblical…rather than being an important part of God’s progressive revelation of truth…removes a large portion of God’s revelatory testimony about Himself.
Human scientific investigation into the workings of the natural world…is as orthodox as can be…because God takes complete ownership of the origin and creation of the natural world…throughout the Bible.
God is not afraid of modern human scientific investigation…even when it gets temporarily off-course…as the theory of Darwinian macroevolution has for the last 160 years.
God set-up the conditions of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world…and the human capacity to comprehend and unravel the mysteries of the living and non-living world from microscopic DNA to how stars are formed in the massive universe…that even atheistic scientists trying to prove Darwinian macroevolution will eventually come to the dead-end of the impossibility of random-chance trial-and-error over long periods of geological history…ever being able to bridge across the huge divide from non-living materials to the “simplest” living things like a single-cell bacteria…requiring all of the DNA, RNA, amino acids, and complex cellular machinery…modern bacteria now have…to be able to survive and to reproduce.
The viewpoint that the findings of human scientific investigation into the workings of the natural living and non-living world…would not yield over time a progressive revelation of the truth of the intelligent designing brilliance of the God of the Bible…confirmed through the empirical evidence of systems of information far too complex, specified, and coherently integrated to be the product of anything other than design…for modern-day Christians is unacceptable…from a defense of the Bible standpoint.
The Bible places a clear and unmistakable flag of ownership atop the hill of the origin and creation of the universe and our earth…expressed throughout the entire Bible from the first verses in Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation.
Christians have nothing to fear from modern scientific investigation…which inevitably leads to the correct final conclusion of the intelligent design of the masterpieces of creation we can see with our own eyes.
An old-age dating of the earth at around 4.5-billion years ago has enormous apologetic value for the argument of the divine origin of our planet.
A young-age dating of the earth has zero apologetic value.
If the modern field of geology…that started with Charles Lyell in the middle to late 1820’s…says that the earth is older than previously assumed based upon scientific discoveries in the natural world…this is progressive revelatory truth that is 110% part of the Bible…because God created the “heavens and earth” (Gen. 1:1)…and He also created human beings capable of performing and comprehending science (Gen. 1:26-27).
Discoveries about the natural world through scientific investigation are not “extra-biblical”…because the God of the Bible created the natural world.
If Edwin Hubble discovers the “red-shift” of light coming from distant stars…as viewed from the Griffith Park massive-sized telescope in 1929…that revealed an expanding universe whose age can then be mathematically calculated in reverse to reach a Big-Bang creation in time at 13.7-billion years ago…this is progressive revelation of truth every bit within the sphere of the Bible…because the God of the Bible says that “in the beginning”…He created the heavens and the earth…which was a concept unique to the Bible prior to Hubble’s scientific discovery…a further progressive revelatory truth about God’s creation…that places the Bible above all other cosmologies prior to 1929.
This is scientific information that can be placed in the column labeled: The Real Truth about God.
It is true that Darwin enlisted an old-age of the earth as part of his theory of macroevolution…but Darwinian macroevolution is disintegrating daily as an explanation for the vast diversity of life on earth…because of our recent scientific understanding of the massive amounts of information required to produce and maintain living systems…which is unattainable though any purely naturalistic mechanism…easily understood now on a popular level thanks to our current Age of Information…thanks to our understanding of the exact precision of computer language code required to produce error-free operation of software programs like Microsoft Word and Excel…for example.
Scientific investigation itself is bringing down Darwinian macroevolutionary as being a dead-end theoretical explanation for the origin and diversity of life…because it is based upon the mindless and unguided process of naturalistic materialism…a pursuit doomed to failure…as Christians should expect in a universe and an earth that is God-created to have orderliness, intelligibility, and purpose.
The empirical evidence produced through human scientific investigation…that confirms the theistic origin and creation of the natural world…is entirely “biblical”…being progressive revelatory truth in the explanation of the phenomenon of the natural world…God’s created world…equal to that of the John 16:13 scripture that says that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into all truth in the spiritual and moral realm.
This is part of the fundamental divide between the young-age and old-age of the earth interpretation of the creation days in the Bible.
Some Biblical Truth is Progressive
Revealed truth in the Bible and in God-composed journey of faith life-scripts is not evolutionary, unguided, mindless, relativistic, or produced through random-chance trial-and-error.
But revealed truth in the Bible is progressive. This is an orthodox biblical statement.
Numerous examples of progressive truth…revealed over time…are found throughout the Bible.
If taken too far, however, this can devolve into liberalism. The progressive revelation in scripture requires balanced interpretation…as described by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15…
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
In Genesis 3:1-5…Satan introduces a subtle lie at the start of humanity that was unparalleled in its malicious and destructive intent…because it was a deliberate, well-crafted, precisely targeted half-truth.
“Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”…only works if this knowledge is accompanied by the divine capacity of elevated character and foresight…thus being able to make the correct choices in life…to choose by nature to be righteous…like the God of the Bible.
One underlying issue at stake in the Garden of Eden…is that through the subtly vailed and disguised temptation directed at Adam and Eve…Satan is making his own defense…that without a divine nature and the benefit of foresight into the future…then God cannot expect perfect character from His created beings…and cannot fault Satan for his rebellion in heaven.
What does this have to do with the time element in the young-age versus old-age earth debate?
For God to properly answer the charge against Him by Satan in the Garden of Eden…takes time (Heb. 11:1).
That revelation of truth in the Bible takes time and is progressive…is an orthodox biblical concept. Biblical interpretation only falls into liberalism when this is abused and taken too far.
The issue that as non-divine created beings, humans can place their faith and trust in God…is such a fundamentally critical question for the successful relationship between God and people for an eternity in heaven…that this challenge by Satan regarding the loving and wise authority of God’s word…cannot simply and briefly be refuted…by God showing-up in person in the Garden of Eden during the temptation of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit…rebuking Satan’s allegations about God’s character with a well-worded discourse and concise rebuttal…”on-the-spot.”
Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are perfectly and absolutely true…but they obviously did not at the time of their writing…when viewed in hindsight…tell the whole story.
It takes the cross and the resurrection of Jesus…to fill-in the missing information.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:8 that if the religious leaders understood the Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 scriptures, and the other Old Testament prophetic scriptures regarding Christ…”they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
In other words…if these scriptures were plainly straight-forward and required no future progressive revelation…if they spelled-out in advance exactly what Jesus Christ the Son of God would be like…then the Pharisees and scribes would not have unwittingly instigated the crucifixion of Jesus…and we would then have no salvation today through the blood shed by Jesus on the cross of Calvary.
The life and ministry of Jesus is itself a revelation of new information (Jn. 1:1-5, 21:25).
The Sermon on the Mount is a revelation of new information that expands and clarifies the “law and the prophets” (Mt. 5:17, 7:28-29).
The appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus…for Paul…was a life-changing, progressive revelation of new information that Jesus was indeed and in-truth the Messiah…the Christ.
The preaching to the Bereans by Paul and Silas (Acts 17:10-15) that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Christ and Savior…is a new revelation of information for these Jews that sheds light on the scriptures…inspiring the more “noble” Berean Jews to search the scriptures to see if this new revelation was true.
Jesus tells us in John 14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-15 that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth…inferring that there is additional progressive truth to be revealed.
The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 is dated at AD 49…with the book of Acts not written by Luke until around AD 60-62.
Scripture was not definitive…was actually silent…regarding precisely how and to what extent newly converted Christian Gentiles should follow Jewish laws and religious rituals…such as circumcision and festivals.
Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, and the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem used their own God-inspired judgment and wisdom…based upon scripture informed by recent experiences (Acts 8:5-17, 8:26-40, 10:1-48)…to reach the correct doctrine for the Gentile Christians (Acts 15:20)…which was then memorialized as divine scripture years later in the book of Acts.
My point here is that the God of the Bible…possessing divine foresight and foreknowledge…is not taken off-guard, surprised by, or adversely challenged by human scientific investigation of the natural world…even by the atheistic components of Darwinism.
Finally, some people object that the creation account in Genesis does not use the word “billion” to describe an old-age for the earth…and therefore renders the old-age interpretation of scripture…along with the modern science of geology…to be incorrect.
This is a nonsensical argument.
When God wants to describe to Abraham the large number of his future descendants…soon to become the “father of faith”…God uses the words: “so if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Gen. 13:16).
Hebrews 11:12 again uses the language of Genesis: “so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable”…to describe a large number.
Revelation 5:11 uses the words: “and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands”…a number that is one-hundred million…which is ten times short of the number one-billion.
The Hindu-Arabic numeral system that contained zeros was not even invented until the year 628 AD by the astronomer/mathematician Brahmagupta in India.
The Vedic period in ancient history (1500-500 BC) used a series of names to describe large numbers.
Arybhata (499 AD) used short phrases consisting of Sanskrit consonants…to describe large numbers up to a billion.
If adopted in Genesis and Exodus at the time of their composition around 1,450 BC…the words or numerals used to describe an earth billions of years old would have revealed India as its source… for expressing large numbers…because the words or numerals to describe 4.5 billion years did not exist in the Hebrew language at that time.
A universe created 13.7 years ago…and an earth that is roughly 4.5 billion years old…contains the context for all of the compelling apologetic argument for the divine creation of the universe and our earth.
What then would be the motivation for staying with a “literal” interpretation of Exodus 20:11 and 31:17…when the four Genesis “days” of creation are not all literally 24-hour days?
What is the upside to asserting that the words of Genesis and Exodus cannot receive further explanatory revelation…even when it comes from the modern discoveries in the field of geology…starting with Charles Lyell in the 1820’s…that proposed a longer period of time for the earth than 6,000 to 8,000 years?
This line-of-argument is not “liberal” theology…and it is certainly not false doctrine.
The natural world is God’s creation.
God put into His design of nature that it would be orderly and intelligible…enabling scientific research…to dispel the errors of old-wives tales, superstition, and witchcraft in the pre-scientific age.
God knows that a 160-year long intensive search for the transitional intermediates in the fossil record…hypothesized by Darwin to be there in his 1859 book The Origin of Species…will come up empty…because the intermediate precursors in the Pre-Cambrian rock strata are not there…and because the theory of macroevolution based upon purely naturalistic processes…achieving the vast diversity of life through the mindless and unguided mechanism of materialism…is false.