Are there not twelve hours in the day? – A “new old” look at the days of Genesis

I have a Ph.D. in biology and a B.Sc. in computer science. I now work at a medical research university in Omaha, Nebraska. As a scientist I whole-heartedly and unequivocally believe in a literal twenty-four hour six-day creation, and that the earth and the universe are both very young, not more than about 6,000 years old. I also hold that in today’s secular, materialistic, and unbelieving world, the idea of creation is more important than ever before, and therefore it is imperative that the church should see clearly regarding this issue, and be in unity according to this doctrine. After the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church I think it is good to periodically examine this question and bring in different aspects to the debate.

As a scientist I think that some theologians tend to believe that “modern science” or “geology” have a fixed opinion about the origin of the world and the age of the earth. This is far from the truth. Science always doubts, and therefore is always changing. According to a study by Ioannidies (2005) most published research findings are subsequently shortly refuted1. What we need to see here is that there are scientific measurements, such as determining a gene sequence, and there are also theories which interpret these measurements. The Bible is not in conflict with the former, but certainly can come into conflict with theories such as the theory of evolution, which fundamentally contradicts the anthropology and worldview of the Bible. Hence the impetus for creation science which allows us to interpret nature based on God’s revealed Word. Furthermore, just as RC Sproul states that “everyone’s a theologian”, so is everyone a scientist (according to the late Carl Sagan2), regardless of how little scientific knowledge or training they may have. Thinking in a scientific manner at a basic level is a quality shared by every human being.

According to the principle of Sola Scriptura (Acts 17:11), the Scripture is the sole highest authority (a sort of highest court of appeals) when defining truth. This means that if anything contradicts Scripture, such as certain scientific theories, such as evolution, we must reject them. This also means that since Scripture stands alone as such a highest authority, then all sorts of concordism must also be rejected, since man’s opinion is not on par with God’s Word.

Some may argue that the lengths of the days of creation are irrelevant to Christian faith, but let us remember that “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-19). Let us also remember Revelation 22:19: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”. It is important here to note that just simply rejecting evolutionary theory is not enough; we must affirm the true meaning of the days of Genesis, because there was a reason that God revealed it to us. Proper exegesis means leaving out all of our presuppositions, biases and possibly secular influences, and allowing the Hebrew text in Genesis to speak for itself.

The Report from the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian church states that “We recognize different interpretations of the word ‘day’ and do not feel that one interpretation is to be insisted upon to the exclusion of others.)”3 To this Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” (John 11:9). Therefore, if the way Jesus Himself defines the daylight portion of a day as twelve hours, then who are we to contradict the Lord?

Is the length of the days of Genesis relevant? Let us take a look at another part of the Bible which mentions three very important days. It is an undeniable orthodox article of the Christian faith that nobody questions in the least that Jesus died and rose again in three literal 24 hour days, and not 3,000 years. If He were to do so, then Jesus would still be in the grave, and our faith would be in vain, and we would still be in our sins (1Corinthians 15:17).

There are still other evidences that the days of creation are ordinary 24 hour days. The very first sentence in the Bible states that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). If the days of Genesis were long, vast periods of time, then given the short time of human history since the end of the sixth day, how could creation “in the beginning” be true, if the act of creation took up the most of human history? This is corroborated again by Jesus’ words in Mark 10:6: “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” Furthermore, if God created the plants on day three of creation (Genesis 1:11-13), then how would these plants be able to survive long periods of time without sunlight necessary for photosynthesis? If the length of the seventh day is an extremely long period of time, how then could Adam, created on the sixth day live to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:5)?

By definition, the Hebrew word for day, יוֹם (yom) means a period of darkness followed by a period of light, understood to be the evening and the daylight portion of the day, both of which have 12 hours, according to Jesus’ definition. If the days of creation were long periods of time, the words morning and evening would lose their meaning. In Hebrew we read that the first day is אֶחָד יוֹם (yom echad), meaning that this is “one day”. The Bible defines a word the very first time it uses it, therefore in the context of creation the word yom means an ordinary twenty-four hour long day. Had the Bible wanted to say that the day was the first day, it would have used another term, as such a term exists: ראִשׁוֹן יוֹם  (yom rishon); first day.

We can also consider Exodus 20:11, which is part of the Ten Commandments: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” This part of the Bible is taken literally by all Christian denominations, since God literally wrote all of the Ten Commandments into the tablets of stone with His finger. The reason the seven days of creation are mentioned in the Ten Commandments is because this is how God defines the cycle of work throughout the week followed by a day of rest – both the workweek and Creation week are seven ordinary days in length.

We can mention even more verses which support ordinary lengths for the days of creation. For example, according to Psalm 33:6 and 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth… For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” No mention of any kind of long periods of time, everything came into existence upon God’s command without delay.

Here we can also deal with some common objections in the GA report which have already been refuted many times. 2Peter 3:8 does not say that a day is one thousand years, only as a thousand years. Otherwise the length of time would be meaningless and Jesus would still not have been raised from the dead. Nowhere does Hebrews 4 say that the seventh day has ended. God rested from His creative work, but this does not mean that God is active afterwards in human history. This also would contradict the Gospel, since God is very much active in salvation history. Furthermore, it is only humanistic thinking which absolutely demands that the sun be the source of light to be able to have morning and evening. Light was made on the first day, and light does not depend on the sun or moon. For example, Revelation 22:5 says the following: “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

The 24-hour interpretation is the only interpretation which harmonizes the best with the rest of Scripture, and doesn’t bring in any unnecessary frameworks, which we would base a biased interpretation of Genesis on, nor does it compromise with any human uniformitarian idea of long ages which was invented about two hundred years ago. Only the 24-hour interpretation relies on the Biblical text itself, whereas practically all other interpretations were devised only in order to debunk the 24-hour theory, and therefore raise problems that cannot be dealt with. In essence, the Bible is very clear about the length of the days of creation, so basically we are just calling a spade a spade.

Therefore, if the Lord unequivocally tells us in the pages of the Bible that a day is indeed nothing more than an ordinary day, then it is upon us to take Him at His word and believe what He is telling us, without feeling the need to harmonize it with certain scientific theories. If we wish to harmonize Scripture with certain theories of geology, why not harmonize it with Buddhism as well? We should accept at face value what God is revealing about the world that He created in His Word that He revealed to us. Otherwise plurality would not be something pleasing to the Lord. We have the responsibility to correctly interpret His Word and not act like we’re in a cafeteria to choose whatever view we like. Indeed, other denominations, such as the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS)4 and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)5 do not suffer from this problem of plurality in the face of obvious Biblical truth. I suggest that we follow their example and make it a condition of orthodoxy that the days of creation are six 24 hour intervals. The GA report even mentions several times that Westminster Divines almost unanimously held that the days of creation were 24 hours in length, and certainly did not hold to such recent views such as the analogical day interpretation. After all, Jesus rose in three days and not 3000 years.

If Jesus didn’t compromise neither should we.



  1. Ioannidis JPA. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Medicine. 2005;2(8):e124. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124.
  2. Sagan, C. (1996). “The Demon Haunted World. Science as a Candle in the Dark”. Ballantine Books. The Random House Publishing Group. New York.
  3. Agenda of the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church