Gen 2:4

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Aug 15 17:37:29 EDT 2000

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew  wrote:

>on 08/14/00 7:56 AM, Peter Kirk wrote:
>> This verse is a key one for those of us who seek to argue against six day
>> creationism while also holding to the authority of the Bible. If "yom"
>> always means one day, which is a key part of the creationist argument, then
>> 2:4 contradicts chapter 1. But as creationists also generally hold to the
>> infallibility of the Bible text, they have to insist that in 2:4 "yom" means
>> something other than one day, which then undermines their own arguments that
>> the six days of creation are literal 24 hour periods. (Any creationists out
>> there prepared to answer this argument?)
>> But I think we will find that there are many places in the Hebrew Bible
>> where "beyom" means "at the time" in a fairly general sense when the
>> reference is to more than a single day. For example Gen. 35:3: Jacob's
>> distress did not last just one day, and this cannot refer to the vision at
>> Bethel being literally on the same day as Jacob fled from Esau as Bethel is
>> more than one day's journey from Beersheba (28:10,11) and anyway a new day
>> began at sunset. In Leviticus 14:2 "beyom" precedes a description of
>> ceremonies which take eight days.
>> Peter Kirk
>This is a well worn subject but I took the time this morning to look at it
>First of all, no one who has studied lexical semantics to any extent is
>going to conclude that "yom"  always means one day. So that is a straw man
>argument. In Gen 1:5 yom is limited by two significant qualifiers. First
>there is )xd which can be used as an cardinal or as an ordinal (less common)
>or as a name for God (this last option is questionable, see V. Hamilton on
>Gen 1:5 where he quotes C. Gordon). The second qualifier of yom in Gen. 1:5
>is wyhy (rb  wyhy bqr. The combination of these two limiting constituents
>makes yom in Gen. 1:5 a totally different ball game from byom in Gen. 2:4
>which is another idiom as Michael Hildenbrand has pointed out. So it is not
>valid to try and pit byom in Gen. 2:4 against yom in Gen. 1:5.
>Furthermore one does not need to be a six day creationist to hold that yom
>in Gen 1:5 means one calendar day. G. Wenham (Genesis WBC) is not a six day
>creationist but he states concerning yom in Gen. 1:5 "There can be little
>doubt that here "day" has its basic sense of a 24 hour period." U. Cassuto
>appears to agree with this but his statements about it are very brief.
>George Bush (1838 or 1860?) reads yom in Gen. 1:5 as an indeterminate
>period. I found this humorous since it was counter to my expectations. I
>expected George Bush to go with the traditional reading and G. Wehnam to go
>with an indeterminate period. Keep in mind that G. Wenham is not defending a
>traditional stance of a six day creation but he was able to see through the
>fog of the creation debate to a uncluttered analysis of yom in Gen. 1:5.
>Does anyone know when George Bush on Genesis was published? Was it pre or
>post Darwin? My copy has a preface date of 1838 but a printing date of 1860.
>It would be intriguing to know what the exact date was since it would allow
>one to place G. Bush in his historical context.

Dear Clay,

Reading you comments, I remembered something I read many years ago - the
best arguments I have ever read (by those who look at the Bible as literal
truth) against a creation week of 24 literal days. After some search I was
able to locate the book: G.L. Archer, 1982, Encyclopedia of Bible
Difficulties, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.

The understanding of the creation account in Genesis depends of course on
one's view of the Bible. I am not arguing for a particular view in this
post, but I think alternative views of what the text does say, is fine to
present. Archer (pp 59-61) presumes there is a unity between the two
accounts in chapters 1 and 2. He points out that the first human couple
were created at the end of the sixth day (1:27). Then he goes on to show
that according to 2:15 Adam was set in the garden before the creation of
Eve. Adam named the animals, realized that he needed a complement, and
while Adam slept, Eve was created. All this needed some time, and this
could hardly be completed at the end of one day. So at least the sixth day
was not viewed as 24 hours long.

My work is first to establish the lexical meaning of the text and look at
its syntax and grammar. Then I will ask. What did the writer of the text
believe himself? Here one has to take the documentary hypothesis into
account, but a philologian can also for some time avoid this question by
asking: What did the redactor of the text believe? One way to answer this,
is to look at what the text does say, and from this viewpoint I think
Archer has made a strong case.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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