An age-old question that always appears in discussing Genesis is about the old age of the Earth. This question did not pose a real problem until the 18th century. Before this date, it was simply not questioned, not thought about, or assumed to be in the realm of 6,000 years old, as indicated through some gyrations of the Old Testament generations. As science progressed, the questions became even more profound.
Throughout the years, there have been a number of responses to the questions that have arisen. However, the range of answers is astounding. They range from an insistence on a 5,000-6,000 year-old Earth to completely abandoning the idea that the Bible has anything useful to say about the age of the Earth (or, for that matter, the universe). Much of this debate revolves around how one understands the days of creation, as listed in Genesis chapter 1. These days and how we understand them are the center of this post.
There are several main views (meaning the generally accepted views primary view) of the days of creation. The first view holds that each day is 24 hours, and that creation happened around 6,000 years ago. The second view does not insist on each day being 24 hours; they are literally of an undetermined time, and therefore creation could have occurred anywhere from a few thousand years ago to millions of years ago; however, the days are in the correct order. The third view that I wish to mention is that of the “Framework view.” This view holds that the days are in a logical order and not necessarily in chronological order.
Before we get into each of these three views, let’s briefly look at the word “day.” Day, in Genesis, is translated from the Hebrew word יוֹם (yôm). There are various possibilities for its translation. However, we are going to focus on the translations related to a measure of time. From there, we can look at three possibilities. First, it could mean the period of daylight; this is in opposition to night, for instance. Second, it can be used to designate a complete cycle of 24 hours (day and night). Third, it can be used to indicate an undefined period of time, a specific period of time in history, or even in eschatology.
With this basic understanding of “day,” one can begin to see how various interpretations of the creation’s days came to exist. Let’s turn out attention to the days of creation then. The first view is fairly easy to understand. Each day is a dedicated 24-hour period of time, which is a legitimate use of the word “day.” With that said, there is no time between the days; these days are consecutive. Based on this very literal understanding and using day as a 24-hour period, one then extrapolates the generational information from the Bible and ends up with the Earth being around 5,000-6,000 years old.
The second view, the day-age view, is also easy to understand but slightly more complicated. In this view, the days do not correspond directly to 24-hour days. The period of time is undefined; therefore, each day may represent thousands or millions of years. The days, however, are consecutive. This understanding of a day also fits within the defined range of meaning of the word “day.” This view also has the benefit of allowing for the agreement between scientific research and biblical narrative. Here one does not necessarily have to have a young Earth. Although there are numerous objections to this theory, such as the order of creation, there are Christian scientists who have demonstrated that these objections are not insurmountable.
The last of the three views noted above is the framework view. This view has made significant gains within the evangelical community in the last decades; however, that does not mean to say that it is correct. People who follow the literary framework view believe that Genesis 1 only gives a logical construction to the days; there is no chronological significance. While this view aims to solve some of the chronological issues noted in the day-age view, it does not handle the biblical text well.
There are numerous indications that the author of Genesis intended to give a chronological account. And, if we want to stay true to the biblical text, which we do, this makes this view more difficult to embrace. How then should we understand the days of creation?
Perhaps, as Lennox notes, there is a view somewhere between the first two views that we should consider. In this view, the days relate to actual days of creation but then have significant periods of time between them. This view fits the definition of “day” as noted above, allows for agreement with scientific data, and does not compromise the biblical text. This may indeed be the most plausible view.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020.
Lennox, John C. Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.
VanGemeren, Willem, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.
 John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 44. There are numerous sub-views of the three listed, but these three points represent the main top ;level views.
 Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), s.v. “yom.”
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 402–4. John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 44.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 404. Grudem notes that Hugh Ross specifically has done great work in this particular area.
 Ibid., 405.
 John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 48.
 Ibid., 54–55.