The 24 hour "evening and mornings" ???

Stephen C. Carlson scarlson at
Tue Aug 29 20:41:12 EDT 2000

At 01:59 PM 8/29/00 -0700, Michael Hildenbrand wrote:
>	The use of the term "24 hour"is to translate into more technical
>(and thus more clear) English terminology in this discussion.  If I were
>to use the term "day" everyone on this list would be wondering "does he
>mean a *real* day, or a day of 1000 years or a day of a billion years."  
>This is not because the English word "day" is insufficient in
>communication generally, really that in this context where people have
>re-defined the term.  The word "day" can also mean the daylight part of a
>day.  Lest I appear to *not* reflect the biblical text, I use the term
>"24-hour day."  If you have a better term, I am very much open to it.  
>The phrase "24 hour" does not reflect how I feel the ancients perceived

I'm all in favor of more technical and more clear terminology, provided
that the terminology is correct and as precise as the Hebrew will allow.
In this case, the redefinition of "day" (YWM) as 24 hours is a modern
conception and does not reflect how the ancient Hebrews perceived time.
So why introduce such an anachronistic definition into a discussion of
the ancient text?

BDB lists several definitions of YWM, none of them as "24 hours":
1. DAY, opp. night; 2. DAY as division of time: a. working day, b.
a day's (journey), c. as a duration, d. day as defined by evening
and morning (Gn 1:5,8,13,19,31 [All P]), e. day of month (c. num.
ordin.), f. the day (of snow), g. particular days, h. his day (of
death), i. a holy day; 3. YWM Y/ DAY OF YHWH; 4. pl. DAYS; 5. DAYS;
6. = TIME; 7. phrases, a. HYYWM = today, etc.

As the entry BDB shows, the word YWM is capable of many definitions,
such of which are fairly imprecise, so "24 hours" as a definition
is over-precise.  The closest to "24 hours" is definition 2.d., a
day as defined by an evening and morning.  This definition is
reminiscent of the astronomers' "solar day": the time in which
it takes the sun to reappear at the same point in the sky (typically,
noon).  But it is awfully hard to talk about solar days before
the sun is created.

As a translation, I'd go with "day" because that word is about as
imprecise as the Hebrew and recognize that the text demands a
non-literal interpretation.

Stephen Carlson
Stephen C. Carlson                        mailto:scarlson at
Synoptic Problem Home Page
"Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words."  Shujing 2.35

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