The following is a guest post by Eric Novitsky:
The Big Bang theory is one of the most widely known explanations of how the universe could have developed. Most textbooks estimate that the universe is around 15 billion years old, however a recent paper estimated it to be around 13.75 billion.1,2 The oldest rocks and crystals on the planet earth have been found to be between approximately 4.3 to 4.4 billion years old.3-5 The earth was initially a ball of molten rock and metal at temperatures of around 2000 degrees Celsius and needed time to cool before solid rocks could form, so the age of the earth is estimated to be slightly older, at around 4.5 billion years old.4 Many meteorites that have been suggested to have formed the same time as the earth have also been dated to around 4.5 billion years old.6 But what about the “seven day creation” that is outlined in the Bible? Does the Bible declare that the universe and the earth were created in only one week? By looking at the original Hebrew text, we can see that there is no contradiction between scientific evidence and the Bible.
The King James translation of the Bible was first printed in 1611. Thirty-one years later, in 1642, Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor John Lightfoot published his calculated date for the creation of the universe: September 17, 3928 B.C. He drew this conclusion by analyzing the genealogies in Genesis, Exodus, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.7 Eight years later James Ussher, an Anglican archbishop of Ireland, corrected Lightfoot’s date, making it October 3, 4004 B.C. After that, Lightfoot even “calculated” Adam’s creation: October 23, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 a.m.!7 Neither scholar consulted the original Hebrew texts.
If one looks at the original Hebrew text, it can be seen that the Bible doesn’t necessarily advocate that the universe was created in seven, 24 hour days. The Hebrew word yôm was translated into “day” in the Bible.7 Yôm is used in biblical Hebrew to indicate a number of different time periods: day, year, age, season, sunrise to sunset, sunset to sunset, or a segment of time without any reference to solar days.7-9 William Wilson, in his Old Testament Word Studies, explains that yôm is “frequently put for time in general, or for a long time, a whole period under consideration…Day [yôm] is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.”10
Outside of Genesis 1, yôm is used in many other places throughout the Bible. Some examples: Genesis 4:3 (yôm = process of time); Genesis 30:14 (yôm = wheat harvest time); Joshua 24:7 (yôm = a long season); 2 Chronicles 21:19 (yôm = years); Isaiah 4:2 (yôm = a future era); Zechariah 14:8 (yôm = summer and winter), and many references to the phrase “the day of the Lord”, where no specific time frame is given.7,8
There have been some grammatical arguments against yôm, as some have argued that when yôm is attached to an ordinal (second, third, fourth, etc.) that is must refer to a 24 hour time period. However, nowhere else in the Bible are sequential epochs enumerated. The rules of Hebrew grammar do not require that yôm must refer to 24 hours, even when attached to an ordinal.7,11 Hosea 6:2 prophesies that “after two days He [God] will revive us [Israel]; on the third day He will restore us.” Bible commentators have noted that the “days” in this passage (where the ordinal is used) refer to a year, years, a thousand years, or maybe more.10,12,13 It has also been argued that the Hebrew word ‘olam would have been used instead to indicate a long time period. However, Hebrew lexicons show that only in post-biblical writings did ‘olam only refer to a long age or epoch. In biblical times it meant forever, perpetual, lasting, always, of olden times, or the remote past, future, or both. The range of its usage did not include a set period of time.7,14,15
The Hebrew word ‘ereb, translated evening, also means sunset, night, or ending of the day.11,16,17 And the word bôqer, translated morning, also means sunrise, coming of light, beginning of day, break of day, or dawning.14,16 In the first chapter of Genesis, ‘ereb and bôqer are used in the sentences that separate the “days” of creation. Looking at the translation of the Hebrew text, one finds this phraseology: “and was evening and was morning day X”.7 Dr. Hugh Ross explains the grammar structure in this sentence: “If ‘day X’ were intended as the noun compliment for the one evening and morning together, the linking verb should appear just once, in plural form. We would expect the literal Hebrew to say, ‘and were evening and morning day X”, but it does not.”7 The use of evening and morning does not imply twenty four hour days, but instead gives no indication of time. So how old does the Bible say that the universe is? After analyzing the original Hebrew text, we can’t say for sure, but it surely was not 7 days, with each day defined as 24 hours.
But what about the big bang and the creation of the universe? The characteristic of the creation of the universe stated more frequently than any other in the Bible is its being “stretched out”, as can be seen in eleven different verses: Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15; and Zechariah 12:1.18 However, the word used for “heavens” or “skies” is shehaqîm, which refers to clouds of fine particles of water or dust located in earth’s atmosphere and throughout the universe, not the shamayim, which refers to the heavens of the astronomical universe.14,17,18 Dr. Hugh Ross gives another analysis on the grammar in the sentence structure:
“What is particularly interesting about the eleven verses is that different Hebrew verb forms are used to describe the cosmic stretching. Seven verses, Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 51:13; and Zechariah 12:1, employ the active participle form of the verb natah. This form literally means “the stretcher out of them” (the heavens) and implies continual or ongoing stretching. Four verses, Isaiah 45:12; 48:13; and Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15 use the perfect form. This form literally means that the stretching of the heavens was completed or finished some time ago. This simultaneously finished and ongoing aspect of cosmic stretching is identical to the big bang concept of cosmic expansion. According to the big bang, at the creation event all the physics (specifically, the laws, constants, and equations of physics) are instantly created, designed, and finished so as to guarantee an ongoing, continual expansion of the universe at exactly the right rates with respect to time so that physical life will be possible.”18
The theories that have been proposed to explain the formation and expansion of the universe do not contradict with the words of the Bible. The creation outline of Genesis is another example. At first glance, it seems that in Genesis the formation of the earth is before the creation of light. However, the “light” of Genesis 1:3 existed prior to the separation of light from darkness in Genesis 1:4. The light of that early period was in the energy range of gamma rays, an energy far in excess of that which is visible to the eye, as the temperature of the universe was well above 3000 degrees Kelvin which completely ionized almost all atoms.3,19,20 As the thermal energy of the universe fell below 3000 °K, allowing electrons to bind in stable orbitals around hydrogen and helium nuclei, not only did the photons break free from the matter of the universe (“separated”) but they became visible as well.3 Another theory is that the darkness may not have been an absence of light, but instead it could mean a source of energy. Isaiah 45:7 tells us that the Hebrew word for darkness, hoshek, could be a created substance of the universe.3
Reading further into the creation account, the beginning of Genesis 1:14-15 states, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.’” This is after plant life in Genesis 1:11, which might seem out of place, since light is necessary in photosynthesis which enables plants to survive. However, as noted earlier, light had already been created in the universe. When the earth cooled down after it was formed, the original atmosphere of the earth contained dust and dirt particles that rendered the atmosphere translucent.3,4 The sun and the stars were not visible through this atmosphere, but light was still able to pass through and support plant life. Genesis 1:14-15 outlines when at least a portion of the atmosphere clears, transforming it from translucent to transparent.
After the atmosphere clears, the sun and the stars are visible from the face of the earth, as can be seen in Genesis 1:16: “God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars.” This is not a new creation and does not conflict with the fact that light and the stars were already created. The Hebrew word for made, ‘asah, in this verse is the verb form indicating completed action, meaning this verse is just a reference to the light and the stars that had already formed.7,21
The bible writers occasionally describe the vastness of the universe. In Genesis 22:17, Jeremiah 33:22, and Hebrews 11:12, the number of God’s children is compared with the number or stars in the sky and the number of grains of sand on the seashore, a “countless” number. The Hebrew (and Greek) numbering systems included numbers up to the billions. “Countless” would indicate a number at least one order of magnitude greater, so at least tens of billions.7
The beginning of Genesis 2:4 sums up creation: “Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.” The literal Hebrew reads “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth where they were created in the day of their making.” Here the word day refers to all six creation days and the creation of the universe that took place prior to the first creation day. Hebrew lexicons verify that the word for generation (toledah) refers to the time between a person’s birth and parenthood or to an arbitrarily longer time span. 14 In Genesis 2:4 the plural form is used, indicating that multiple “generations” have passed.7
If we believe that God is truth, speaks truth, guides us into truth, and does not lie, any apparent contradiction between the facts of nature and the words of the Bible is from human misunderstanding. The more we explore and study science alongside God’s word in the Bible, the more we can attempt to understand God’s truth in science.
1. Silk, Joseph. The Big Bang. W. H. Freeman and Co.: New York, 1989.
2. Jarosik, N. et al. “Seven-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Sky Maps, Systematic Errors, and Basic Results.” Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, 2010.
3. Schroeder, Gerald L. Genesis and the Big Bang. Bantam Books: New York, 1990.
4. Gallant, Roy A. Earth: The Making of a Planet. Marshall Cavendish: New York, 1998.
5. Wilde, Simon A.; Valley, John W.; Peck, William H.; Graham, Colin M. “Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago.” Nature. 2001, 409, 175.
6. Stassen, Chris. “The Age of the Earth.” The TalkOrigins Archive, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html.
7. Ross, Hugh. Creation and Time. NavPress Publishing Co.: Colorado, 1994.
8. Neyman, Greg. “Word Study: Yom.” Old Earth Ministries, http://www.oldearth.org/
9. Whitefield, Rodney. The Hebrew Word Yom Used With a Number in Genesis 1. http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/yom_with_number.pdf.
10. Wilson, William. Old Testament Word Studies. Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, 1978.
11. Deem, Rich. “Does the Bible Say God Created the Universe in Six 24-Hour Days?” Evidence for God from Science. http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/
12. Calvin, Jean, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, Volume I: Hosea, trans. John Owen (Edinburgh, UK: The Calvin Translation Society, 1846).
13. Given, J.J., “Hosea”, The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 13, Daniel, Hosea, and Joel, ed. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1950.
14. Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. I. Moody: Chicago, 1980.
15. Tregelles, Samuel P., Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1979.
16. Brown, Francis; Driver, S. R.; and Briggs, Charles A., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Clarendon Press: Oxford, UK, 1968.
17. Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. II. Moody: Chicago, 1980.
18. Ross, Hugh; Rea, John. “Big Bang – The Bible Taught It First!” Reasons to Believe. http://www.reasons.org/articles/big-bang—the-bible-taught-it-first.
19. The University of Sheffield. “Primordial Nucleosynthesis.” http://www.shef.ac.uk/
20. Georgia State University. “Temperature and Expansion Time in the Standard Big Bang Model.” http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/astro/expand.html.
21. Mansoor, Menahem. Biblical Hebrew Step by Step, vol. 1, second edition. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1980.
Eric has also written:
Purgatory in Scripture
A book that I found very very interesting and enlightening on this topic is “The Genesis Enigma” by Andrew Parker.