The 24 hour "evening and mornings" ??? (Stephen)

Stephen C. Carlson scarlson at
Thu Aug 31 07:31:02 EDT 2000

At 12:03 AM 8/31/00 -0400, Liz Fried wrote:
>> I'm all in favor of convenience -- unless that convenience is an excuse
>> to engage in sloppy thinking.  If you are unwilling to claim that the
>> Hebrews worked on a notion of 24 hours, why smuggle that meaning into
>> the text under the guise of "convenience"?
>During the second temple period they had sundials which divided the
>day into 12 hours, and the unrecorded night into 12 hours. The hours
>were not all the same length, but varied with the length of the day.
>In the winter days, when daylight was short, the daylight hours were
>shorter and the nighttime hours longer.

There's also the allusion in Job 7:2.  Your discussion supports the
point of my original postion.  Although we moderns think of an hour
as a constant amount of time, the hour was merely a fraction of the
day.  As the length of the day varied (as it does even now, with an
average of 24 modern hours), so too did the length of the hour.  It
is the length of the day that is primary and the length of the hour
is derivative.  A definition of a primary concept in terms of its
derivative attributes is ultimately a circular definition, because
the derivative attributes only have a meaning with respect to the
primary concept.  E.g. the circularity in: What is a day?  Twenty-four
hours.  What is an hour?  One twenty-fourth of day.  Therefore, it
is only proper to use a non-circular definition: the period from
one morning/evening/noon to the next.  This definition is superior
because it is non-circular and the one that the writer actually
seems to employ in Genesis 1.

>> >Could you supply some other way for us "moderns" to understand the period
>> >of time which the writer indicates passes between one morning
>> and the next
>> >(the standard supplied in Gen1)?
>> It is a "day."
>I think that 24 hours is pretty accurate.

It is either tautological or illegitimate.  It is tautological, if an
hour is defined as a fraction of a day (as the ancients did), because
every day can be divided into 24 parts, but this does not tell us how
long the day or the hour is.  It is illegitimate if one assumes that
hours are constant and can be used to measure days (as they now in
modern times with our clock-making technology) to imply that the
Genesis 1 days are precisely measured to the same length.

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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