by Jack Hoehn
My last blog (Why do Things Evolve?) suggested that the real conflict between the Bible and Science does not come from the basic facts, but from the interpretation of the facts. The Bible in broad outline seems to agree with much of the broad outline of modern science. It is in the details where we come apart.
Bible students who try to find dates and chronology for creation soon find that their speculations run afoul of observable clocks of various kinds found in the creation. For a recent example see Brian Bull’s article on the Greenland Icefields (Brian Bull Greenland Icefields). While we can date the accession of Nebuchadnezzar fairly accurately we cannot without huge suppositions and presuppositions date creation from Bible stories. There are no dates for creation given in your Bible. It is all a calculation based on speculation to suggest it happened 6,000 or 9,000 years ago.
But even beyond the problem of chronology, is translation of what words mean. None alive speaks the ancient Semitic languages that the Old Testament was written in. No one on earth, even the modern Greeks, speak or write in the Greek used in the New Testament. So all Scriptures has to be translated.
When in Chinyanja I speak of “Pelo yahow” I am speaking of a four chambered vital organ that pumps blood through your body. But the verb “ku pela” means “to live”. So I learned that the four chambered muscle that pumps blood through your body is called “the liver”, in Chinyanja. If I don’t translate it correctly I might treat a patient with a heart attack, for gall stones! If a Chichewa patient told me clearly, “I have pain in my liver”, I need to interpret that into English to understand, “I have pain in my heart”.
Who is to say if the ancient English or the ancient Chewa were not more correct, both these organs, the hepatic “liver” and the cardiac “liver” are vital organs. As the Peanuts cartoon strip once explained, “If you don’t have a liver, you’re a goner!”
When Moses was inspired by God to tell a creation narrative to Hebrew slaves, and he had wanted to tell them not that creation happened in 6 short solar days, but that God created the heavens and the earth in six successive stages or eras, what word would God have inspired Moses to use? What is the ancient Semitic word for era, age, or indefinite period of time?
I don’t know this. But I am told, there isn’t one.
I am told that when this thought (era, age, stage, indefinite time in the past) is required they use the word “yom”. Yom is the Semitic (ancient Hebrew) word for day, as opposed to night, the word for the 12 hours from sunrise till sunset. Yom is also a word which can also be used for 24 hours as “the first day of the week” . Or like in English, yom can mean way back then, sometime before now, such as “back in Grandpa’s day”. Or as in “the day of the Lord” which means, at that time, then, and does not necessarily mean 24 hours.
But, but, but… the short-term creationist insists, it says in Genesis there was evening and there was morning, yom one. Surely that settles it on 24 hours?
But, but, but… the long-term creationist insists, it doesn’t say “evening and morning” it says a word that means “darkening” and then a word that means “lightening”. So you could interpret it better by saying there was darkness and then after God created there was light, era one. There was more darkness and then after God created there was more light, era two. There was more darkness and then after God created there was more light, era three… This progressive creation, imposing design on chaos is the struggle between darkness and light spoken of in John 1.
So both young earth creationists, and old earth creationists, agree that Creation happened in 6 events. The difference is not “did God create in 6 yom” the difference is in how you interpret the “yom”.
12 hours of light? 24 solar hours? Or a stage, era, occurrence in the past, back in the day?
The 4th commandment of Exodus 20 has no difficulty with the Hebrew, no matter what conclusion you take. It remains true that God created in 6 yom and rested on the 7th yom, no matter what interpretation you make of yom. Short day or Great Day; very busy suddenly like magic days, or very long at the speed of nature eras; days as counted from the surface of the earth, or days as counted from Heaven where one day can be as a thousand years on earth, according to 2 Peter?
It is not a question of God doing it or of godless evolution. It is a question of translation, of interpretation. It is a question of God creating nearly instantaneously or God creating at the speed of nature. It may seem that a 13.7 Billion year old universe is very slow, but if we believe in God being eternal, and offering to us life in the future that it eternal, then all time is short in comparison to eternity.
And if Adventist theology is correct, the events of this Great Controversy are not only for this earth, they are for the universe. Taking Universal Time to solve a Universal Conflict is not strange, but quite appropriate.
Adventist creationists of all chronologies can agree on the origin and purpose of the weekly Sabbath no matter what your interpretation of yom, and we can take comfort with that right deep down in our livers.