In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young age creationist arguments. Stated in his own words, his purpose in writing the piece I am responding to was “to help us understand each other better and to give clearer, deeper, more thoughtful arguments for our positions and against those that we disagree with. I’m here not belittling my YEC brothers, but calling them to a higher standard of reasoning and argumentation.” I write this response not to ignite controversy, but rather, because I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment and have been advocating for the same thing within the young age creationist community. He offers some good points and challenging arguments. At the same time, he offers some arguments that have been soundly refuted by young age creationists, suggesting that he (and likely his readership) have not taken the time (or, to be generous, perhaps have just not had an opportunity) to avail themselves of the answers. I pray that this response is taken to be as gracious as I took his initial article to be, and most of all, I pray it helps others on every side of this debate gain a better understanding of the young age creationist view. Therefore, I write this two-part response in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”1
The following is part two of my two-part response. Click here for part one:
5. Moses bases the Sabbath as the 7th day on the 7 literal day structure of Genesis 1.
//I would argue that Moses was the author of both Genesis and Exodus and so he would know what he meant in Genesis 1 and would mean the same in Exodus 20. This much, the YECs and I agree. The problem is that if that is the case then the verse no longer proves what they say it does. Since Exodus is reliant on Genesis 1 and its meaning, then whatever is meant in Genesis 1 would also be meant in Exodus 20…We have further evidence that Moses did not mean literal days in Genesis 1 because if that were the case, then day 7 would be a literal solar day. This means God would have only rested from creation for 24 hours, which we know is not the biblical view…This is further supported by the laws regarding Sabbath years and Sabbaths of Sabbaths (Jubilee years). They all follow the creation paradigm of 6 periods of labor followed by a period of rest but do not follow it in an exacting manner…Considering that Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses and it is there that we read “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Moses is apparently very clear that a day is a flexible concept even to the point where 1000 years, a full day (yesterday) and a single watch of the night are all symbolically interchangeable.//
This is a fun one, because Tyler’s objections to this are quite interesting.
Summarized and paraphrased, they are as follows:
- Moses authored both books, therefore, the meaning is the same between Genesis and Exodus, whatever “day” is taken to mean.
- The seventh day is allegedly not a literal day, so days 1-6 aren’t necessarily either.
- The year of Jubilee does not follow the creation paradigm exactly.
- The word “day” is apparently interchangeable with “1000 years” as per the language in Psalm 90.
Tyler’s first objection sounds promising for anti-young-age believers, but it fails on two counts:
First, in context, Exodus 20 opens with this statement: “And God spake all these words, saying,” (Exodus 20:1 KJV). We have more here than God’s usual order of verbal plenary inspiration–we have His actual words as He audibly spoke them to Moses. Yes, Moses is recording this incident. But he is specifically recording the actual words God said. As far as I am aware, this is pretty much uncontested by Old Testament scholarship. Interestingly, then, this actually serves to strengthen the argument toward the young age direction.
Second, in Deuteronomy 10:1-4, we find God telling Moses that He Himself will write on the second pair of tablets “the words that were in the first tables.”2 Significantly, this suggests that God not only spoke the words in question, but wrote them Himself.
If we again operate on the standard assumption that God intends to communicate, and the best interpretation is the one the authors and original readers could have easily understood and shared, it makes absolutely zero sense that these days can represent anything other than ordinary, literal days.3
In his second objection, Tyler says, “We have further evidence that Moses did not mean literal days in Genesis 1 because if that were the case, then day 7 would be a literal solar day. This means God would have only rested from creation for 24 hours, which we know is not the biblical view.”
Tyler speaks awfully confidently about an issue there is much disagreement on. I think there is a strong biblical case to be made that day 7 is a literal solar day. For a more theological discussion (which deals with the references in John/Hebrews old-agers use to support their position that the seventh day is continual), see my article on the days of Genesis.
Here are just a few thoughts to chew on:
The argument usually goes that, since there is no evening/morning present on day 7, it must not be a solar day. The problem is that this is then extrapolated to allow for the possibility that the other days might not be literal! But no such suggestion is present in the text and in doing so you would have to flat-out ignore the contextual elements given for the other days. Context still limits meaning.
Also, even though the cadence of “morning and evening” is not used directly in the text to signify the close of this day, the tense of the words in use seems to indicate finitude. The text states, “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3, emphasis mine). God’s actions within the seventh day seem to be portrayed as past tense, and to reinterpret this passage based on a New Testament verse would seem to imply fallacious exegesis.
Further, as you’ll see if you read my article on the subject, accepting that day 7 is continual ignores lots of Scripture to the contrary and is certainly not what we “know” is “the biblical view.”
Finally, to give a common-sense illustration, what happens if you take a leave of absence from work? Likely, you’ll be resting for an indefinite period of time. Does that in any way suggest that the first day of your leave was not a literal, solar day? Did that day somehow extend throughout the entirety of your leave? Of course not. There was an actual day of rest, followed by an indefinite period of rest. It would be inaccurate to conflate the seventh day of creation with God’s creation rest. They are two related, but nevertheless distinct, things.
Therefore, this objection fails.
Thirdly, Tyler points to the Jubilee years. I’m going to agree with Tyler on this point, simply because I believe it’s irrelevant to the discussion. I’ve not personally seen an argument for literal days come from the Jubilee years. It follows the pattern of creation week, but that’s about all. It has nothing to say about its length.4
Fourth and finally, we have Psalm 90 to work with. Once again, context determines meaning. What is to be gleaned from a poetic passage which makes a declaration that 1000 years, a day, and a “watch in the night,” are symbolically interchangeable?
Tyler seems to want to glean from this that we can, therefore, reinterpret the word day to mean any of those things wherever we see fit! (Even if he doesn’t want to say this, what else could it possibly entail?) Clearly, this is fallacious reasoning and hermeneutics. There is never any argument as to the length of time Jonah spent in the whale! At best, Vela is grasping at straws with this suggestion.
The historical (and common sense) understanding of this passage is similar to what we learn from Peter,5 namely that God is outside of time and space! God is not bound by human constraints. In no way, shape, or form does Psalm 90 suggest we can reinterpret Genesis 1 symbolically.
Vela may want to again argue that since Moses wrote both passages, this is a valid move. But by that logic, any time the word “day” is associated with Peter or his writings, we could make the same move since he made a very similar statement! Further, there is some contest whether Psalm 90 actually boasts Mosaic authorship. I have no dog in that fight, but the possibility exists that this was not written by Moses at all and was actually penned during the Babylonian exile.
For the above reasons, I think creationists are quite justified in arguing that the Sabbath pattern is, in fact, based on the literal Genesis days.
6. Yom plus “morning and evening” in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.
//This is simply a false assertion about the Hebrew construction. The problem is that “morning and evening” is never used in the same way in conjunction with “yom” like it is in Gen 1. The few times that the phrase “morning and evening” is used (only about a dozen times) it is used either of the daily events of a battle or of the daily sin offering, in which the 24 hour day is supported by other clear textual and narratival markers that determine the kind of interval that is being spoken of. This means that the set of verses outside of Genesis 1 that uses the same grammatical structure is a null set – it does not exist. Therefore such a use in Gen 1 serves as a kind of hapax legommena and as such we cannot appeal to any external grammatical rules to demonstrate any particular reading of it. This means that we cannot say that in Genesis 1 it must mean a literal 24 hour day because of some grammatical construction of yom plus ”morning and evening” because there are no other parallel passages in which to derive this rule.//
Tyler’s sixth objection, as stated, is simply a strawman argument.6 This suggests he has not carefully researched the argument for himself or has gotten some bad information from somewhere.
Notice the way in which he has worded this objection. In the “refutation”, he closes by saying, “we cannot say that in Genesis 1 it must mean a literal 24 hour day because of some grammatical construction of yom plus ”morning and evening” because there are no other parallel passages in which to derive this rule.” (Emphasis mine.)
But that’s not the creationists’ argument!
Tyler’s assertion would be absolutely correct if one were arguing that this exact grammatical construction exists elsewhere and is setting some sort of precedent, but that’s not the argument at all.
Consider the following statement from Dr. Terry Mortenson with Answers in Genesis, arguably the leading worldwide young age creationist organization: “Everywhere else in the Old Testament, when the Hebrew word for “day” (יוםֹ, yom) appears with “evening” or “morning” or is modified by a number (e.g., “sixth day” or “five days”), it always means a 24-hour day.” (Again, emphasis mine.)
If you’ll read the article I referenced, you’ll find that Mortenson mentions other markers in the text (germane to Tyler’s requirements) which point to the 24-hour, contextual understanding. Morning and evening do not even enter the equation other than to make the point that, as Tyler himself affirms, these words never appear in a context outside of ordinary solar days. It is not meant to be a “rule” as Tyler alleges, merely an interesting point of observation.7
However, note that no one is arguing that yom appears outside of Genesis 1 with evening plus morning, but rather, evening or morning! The point is that the fact that both are mentioned with the Genesis days serves to strengthen the contention that they should be understood literally, since any time either are mentioned in conjunction with yom the context refers to a literal day.8
Here is what another leading creationist organization, ICR, says about it:
“The meaning of the term “day” must be seen in conjunction with the use of “evening” and “morning.” Those who would argue that the days are long periods contend that these terms can have figurative meanings. But what is their meaning in the context of Genesis 1? We must ask ourselves, how would the people have understood these terms “evening” and “morning?” Is Moses, and by extension, God, trying to deceive us by not telling us the truth about the length of the “days?” The Old Testament records 38 times when these two words are used in the same verse. Each time they occur, the meaning must be that of a normal day. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the point: Exodus 16:8 says, “And Moses said, this shall be when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full.” Also Exodus 18:13, “and the people stood by Moses from the morning until the evening.” All the other occurrences are essentially the same. So then, it would appear that when the words “morning” and “evening” are used in the same verse, they must refer to a normal day.”
Again, please take careful notice of the argument. Nowhere in the above do they mention “yom” plus “evening and morning,” even though they are referencing verses where both occur! Specifically, they say, “The Old Testament records 38 times when these two words are used in the same verse. Each time they occur, the meaning must be that of a normal day.” (Emphasis mine.) Again, the reference is to the meaning of the verse in context, not the word “yom” itself.
Regrettably, there probably are ill-informed young age creationists who would raise the argument as stated in Tyler’s objection. That is, indeed, unfortunate. However, it would serve Tyler (and anyone else, including YEC’s) to critique the best available version of an argument–not the easily refuted misunderstandings of those who have not carefully researched the issues.
7. Yom plus an ordinal or cardinal number in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.
//This again is simply a false statement about Hebrew, and yet it is probably one of the most oft repeated truisms of the YEC movement. Countless books, articles, blogs, debates and lectures assert this truism, apparently without ever checking to see if it is true or not.//
There is a sense in which I both agree and disagree with Tyler’s point on this. Allow me to explain:
Properly stated, the argument should read that wherever “yom” plus an ordinal number is used, the context always refers to ordinary solar days. No creationists (at least none that I’ve seen) argue that this distinction is shared by cardinal numbers.
Tyler gives four specific examples, only one of which references “yom” plus an ordinal, and three of which reference “yom” plus a cardinal. I’m going to dismiss Vela’s argument (with one caveat, mentioned shortly) with respect to the cardinal numbers because I don’t think you’ll find an informed recent creationist arguing that view. So in that respect, I agree with him.
However, the ordinal passage Tyler argues for is unique. It should be stated up front that in the entire Old Testament, this passage Tyler mentions is the only one that could even be contested, and I think there is good reason to think he could be mistaken.
To understand the significance of this, consider this helpful list of every single time the word “yom” is used with an ordinal number in the Old Testament. I would also encourage you to click here for the analysis based on that list.9
The results of the analysis indicate that only one of the passages Tyler mentions is in question.
Of the Deuteronomy passage, the writer indicates, “The fact is that YOM is here translated “time,” not “day.” This is true of the NKJV, KJV, ASV, and NASB, as well as other less reliable translations. The reason it is so translated is that the word used here is not singular, but plural! Literally, it says “the first days”!”10
With this understanding in mind, it seems clear this particular example does not allow for the possibility of a long-age interpretation of Genesis–and it certainly would not necessitate it.
Tyler also makes mention of a favorite passage used in refutation of young age creationism, Hosea 6:2. He says, mistakenly, “This is a non-literal usage of yom even though it is twice paired with a cardinal number.” But in this case, we actually have “yom” paired with both an ordinal and a cardinal, not two cardinals!
To show that I have absolutely zero intention of being disingenuous, I am not going to skim over this distinction. This is the only other passage that could even remotely be used to show that the pairing of “yom” plus an ordinal could mean something other than an ordinary day. This is why I mentioned above that there is a sense in which I agree with Tyler’s objection. Careful creationists should be clear that there is a single passage in which it is disputed. In that vein, I recommend creationists, if they are going to use this argument, adjust their phraseology accordingly.
Nevertheless, I think there is more to the story. As the writer I mentioned above points out, “that verse is prophecy, not history or doctrine. Since prophecy commonly uses words in symbolic and non-literal ways, we would expect it to use “day” symbolically. But this proves absolutely nothing about how the word is used in historical or doctrinal contexts. When the Bible uses “day” with an ordinal number, the fact remains that the usage is always literal, except in one instance of symbolic prophecy. Since Bible descriptions of the days of creation are not prophecy, the only fair conclusion is that the days of creation are literal.”
Dr. James Allman, professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, argues in this video, beginning at 18:17, that the context demands these days be taken literally. He also makes the point we’ve been making all along about “yom” plus an ordinal, without reference to the Hosea passage, suggesting he didn’t think it posed a problem for the view.11 If you’ll watch/listen through 23:53, Dr. Allman also argues a similar point to my own above about the Sabbath, wherein I point out that God actually wrote this down–not Moses.
I’ll go one step further, to make the problem “worse.” In a refutation of the literal view, Dr. William Lane Craig makes the following point:
“In any case, showing that the word yom means a 24-hour day really doesn’t even begin to address the question of whether or not a 24-hour day might be used as a metaphor for something else. And we looked at the example of the world [sic] “arm.” Even if in every Hebrew passage you can find in the Old Testament the word “arm” refers to a limb or an appendage rather than to a weapon that doesn’t mean that when the Scripture says “the arm of the Lord was with the people of Israel” that it means that God has literal appendages or has literal limbs. Rather, the word “arm” isn’t being used in the sense of a weapon; it is being used in the sense of a limb. It means limb, but the limb is used as a metaphor for God’s power and strength and might that accompanies Israel. So even if it were true that the word yom means 24-hour period of time [sic], that doesn’t even begin to address the literary question of whether or not a 24-hour day might not be used as a literary metaphor for something else.”
Of course, he is arguing that no matter what any Scripture or literary reference using a particular combination of words says, the immediate context always determines meaning. I agree! And I think the context of Genesis 1 is inescapably clear, as hopefully you’ve also concluded watching Dr. Allman’s video above.12
To underscore this, consider a question asked of Craig during the above-mentioned teaching: “There are 38 “morning and evening” without yom that are all 24-hour days. There are 19 places with “morning and evening” with yom and are all 24-hour days. I think what you have to do is you have to look at not just the word yom but its context and the other words that are used around it.”
Craig’s answer? “That is a very good point. I want to absolutely affirm what you are saying. You cannot do simple dictionary word studies and exegete a passage. Context is everything. And I hope to have done that here; that is what I was trying to do.”
In sum, there is certainly much more nuance to this objection, and sadly, this is another area where both recent creationists and those with other views falter in understanding each other’s views and getting across what they mean to say. Hopefully, the work I’ve done here to clarify this objection makes you think twice, no matter which side of the issue you are on.
8. We see the use of the waw-consecutive construction in the Hebrew which is how Hebrew marks out historical narrative and thus we should take Genesis 1 as literal history.
//Like the “rule” listed above, this is simply not a real rule. While the waw-consecutive (also called the vav-consecutive) construction is a well-known feature of Hebrew narrative (or rather Hebrew narration), it is simply not the case that it denotes historical narrative.//
Yet again, I have no idea who to fault. Is it misinformed young age creationists making bad arguments? Is it Tyler’s failure to carefully research? Is it Tyler’s peers/role-models feeding him bad information? Some combination of the three?
Whatever it is, it is not a good argument.
Notice again how he worded this objection: “We see the use of the waw-consecutive construction in the Hebrew which is how Hebrew marks out historical narrative…” (emphasis mine.)
This is just not the argument. In fact, recent creationist’s often make Tyler’s point! We would enthusiastically agree, along with Tyler, that “While the waw-consecutive (also called the vav-consecutive) construction is a well-known feature of Hebrew narrative (or rather Hebrew narration), it is simply not the case that it denotes historical narrative.”
I would modify it to say that it does not necessarily denote historical narrative, but in principle, Tyler, myself, and the young age creationist community are actually in full agreement with respect to this “objection.”
Last week, responding to objection three, I referenced the work of Dr. Steve Boyd with respect to the historicity of Genesis. In his paper, Dr. Boyd carefully points out, “…characteristic features of poetry are also found in narrative. The converse is also true: characteristic features of narrative are also present in poetry. We conclude that qualitative descriptions of poetry and prose—although helpful in identifying their genre—do not rigorously distinguish them.”
As to the relevance of preterites in Hebrew to his study, Dr. Boyd states the following: “Preterites with prefixed waw-consecutives must come first in a sentence. If another syntactic element is fronted (it comes first in the sentence instead of the verb to indicate a contrast), the verb cannot be a preterite, but will usually be a perfect. The perfect is normally a nonsequential past tense, although word order constraints demand that it be used in a sequential sense if an explicit subject precedes what would otherwise be a preterite.”
Essentially, he is arguing that for the waw-consecutive to even have anything at all to say about a sequential order of past events, it will have to be at the beginning of a sentence. While the quantitative use of preterites is important to the outcome of his statistical analysis, Dr. Boyd has carefully accounted for the distinction that such constructions do not necessarily represent a particular literary genre.
Once again, because this final objection is ultimately based on a strawman fallacy, it too fails.
If you have read this lengthy two-part response, I want to first of all say thank you. My objective was two-fold, and I will now take a few final words to reflect on those objectives and hopefully make a lasting impact on you, as a reader of material between young age creationists and those with other persuasions.
First of all, I hope that you have found my response to be both graceful and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). I am a part of many Facebook groups in which discussion on this topic is actually banned because of how heated it can be.
I really appreciated the tone of Tyler’s initial article, and I tried to respond in a similar manner. I stand firmly on my view, and will not pretend to be tolerant when such simple-to-correct, yet egregious errors in reasoning are committed. I hope I accomplished my objective that this article be a grace-filled response while also standing my ground.
In that regard, I hope to be on the forefront of reshaping the conversation between young age creationists and those with other views.
Secondly, and unfortunately, I hope that my responses have served to demonstrate how grossly misinformed most are about what young age creationists teach. Yes–it must be admitted that creationists have advanced some very bad arguments over the years. I’ve dealt with many of these myself here.
Nevertheless, creationist research is really growing and expanding today, and the evidence is clear that evolutionists and old-age-affirming Christians are, writ large, ignorant and unaware of it. Even as I write this article, yet another piece has been written about what Genesis supposedly “actually teaches.” Sadly, many of the same tired arguments have been used. And although I want to remain optimistic, it’s likely that the second, third and fourth installments, which will likely have been posted by the time you are reading this, are filled with many of these tired arguments as well.
Last of all, I want to thank Tyler for his heart and passion for Christ, and for defending the faith. He and I share some mutual acquaintances, both of which share different views than both he and myself! To that end, I appreciate how well communication has been fostered.
I can only hope that this response has accomplished my goals–to foster more productive conversation with my brothers and sisters who disagree, and to ignite a zeal for learning about what young age creationists actually teach and what the latest scientific research is showing.
“Science” itself does not demand that we accept what mainstream science teaches, neither do the Scriptures suggest that we go along with what mainstream science teaches.13 I am not against science–I am against the philosophical undergirding that ultimately drives those views which aim to exalt themselves “against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Against those views, we must firmly stand together.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
- This will be an extremely long article, but I consider Tyler’s article to be one of the best, concise refutations of the young age view (especially from a textual perspective), so I think this response will be a worthwhile read for anyone interested.
- The breaking of the original tablets is referenced in Deuteronomy 9:17.
- In his response to last week’s post, Tyler notes that “this [the just-mentioned standard assumption] would simply be to beg the question of the plain and clear meaning of the passage. Myself and others have argued that this would be almost instantly recognizable to the ANE readers as a temple text. So what was plain to them is probably not what is “plain” to us reading it as scientifically minded moderns.” Although I am not well-versed on the idea of temple texts, all I am talking about here is the concept of a “day.” I find it hard to believe that when someone uses the term “day,” even in the ancient world, it is not clear that an ordinary solar day is being referenced. Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian sources all confirm that the concept of a “day” was well-established by that time. Nevertheless, this response is supposed to be in the context of old earth creationism (OEC) as mentioned in Tyler’s original article, the majority of which are concordists who argue that the “days” of Genesis are long periods of time (unlike Tyler). Therefore, I maintain the position that in the context of concordism, there is no question about what the ancient Israellites would have understood by the term “day.”
- I realize that the very fact that it has nothing to do with the length of creation week is probably germane to Tyler’s argument. But I fail to see how it is relevant. This follows the pattern, but that I am aware, God never connects it directly to the days of creation in the text, as was done with the work week.
- “…that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
- As you will see below, the correct argument could be worded, “Yom plus “morning or evening” in the Hebrew always appears in a context that refers to a literal solar day.”
- Below, I will argue that almost always these “points of observation” are irrelevant anyway since it is always context that determines meaning. Nevertheless, Tyler’s objection still fails on logical and semantic grounds and therefore, needs to be addressed on its own merits.
- The interested reader will note that “day” occurs with “morning” 62 times outside of Genesis 1 in the Hebrew Bible, and that “day” occurs with “evening” 23 times outside of Genesis 1 in the Hebrew Bible.
- Let the reader take note that I am not explicitly endorsing or even recommending the author in the above-mentioned list. I have no idea of his credentials, etc., however, I am merely drawing from him a list and a basic analysis of that list, something anyone could do (it just so happens that this person has already done it).
- This point was also brought to bear in Tyler’s debate with fellow young age creationist, Jason Mullet.
- By the way, I don’t believe Dr. Allman is even a recent creationist, though I don’t know this for sure. This means he is a “hostile witness.”
- In full discloure, should one watch the video, one would find that Dr. Allman suggests Genesis uses “allegorical language that is sufficiently like the literal.” He does not mean to speculate on the age of the earth at all, I merely mean to show by referencing his video that the context does not allow for a non-literal rendering of the Genesis days, nor a stretching of them. I think the only way to render that position and not affirm a young earth would to affirm some rendition of the Gap Theory, which he spends quite some time arguing against, despite mentioning his mentor holding that view. So in this case, we have an influential scholar who does not want to affirm a young earth (at least based on the text of Genesis 1 alone), and yet holds a view about Genesis 1 that all but necessitates it.
- I am stating this in point of fact. Tyler views are textually driven, not scientifically.