The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

Why we need to take Genesis 1-2 literally (4)

So far in this short series of posts we have looked at the TEXTUAL, HERMENEUTICAL and THEOLOGICAL reasons why we need to take the opening chapters of Genesis literally. Today we look at some HISTORICAL reasons.

It may be the least important of the four arguments, but it is certainly not unimportant. While it may well be true that, certainly in the west, today it would appear that the majority of professing Christians do not hold to a six 24-hour day period for creation, that has not always been the case.   Recently, an online article in a well-known Christian magazine sneeringly described those who believed in a six day creation and a young earth as holding “indefensible” views and being “part of the problem”.  I replied by reminding the writer of some of the spiritual giants from previous days who also held these “indefensible” views.

It is true that while there have always been Christians, and branches of the Church, who have diverged from this position, adopting, for example, an allegorical or spiritualized approach as we have noted, the major consensus has been an adherence to the stance we have taken in these notes.

By way of evidence here are some quotes from a selection of Church Councils and leaders:

It pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, world, and all things therein the visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.  (Westminster confession of Faith)

In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good. (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith)

…in the context of “morning” and “evening” a “day” in Genesis 1 referred to a day of “24 hours” (Basil of Caesarea (AD 329-379) )

…the length of one day is 24 hours in extent. (Ambrose (cAD 339-397) )

 The first day was “without a doubt a day of 24 hours” (Bede (cAD 672-735) )

    …therefore, as the proverb has it, he (Moses) calls “a spade a spade,” i.e. he employs the terms “day” and “evening” without allegory, just as we customarily do… Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e. that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit. (Luther (AD 1483-1546) )

Moses relates that God’s work was completed not in a moment but in six days… Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to a capacity of men. (Calvin (AD 1509-1564) )

…if thou bring into parts, and severally examine what he made in those six days… Thou shalt be compelled to be amazed at the goodwill and power of God. (Henry Bullinger (AD 1504-1575) )

…in the beginning of time, when no creature had any being God by his Word alone, in the space of six days, created all things. (James Ussher (AD 1581-1656) )

… if God wanted us to understand the creation week as a literal week, He could hardly have made the point any clearer…. (Dr Peter Barnes (Lecturer in Church History, Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney) )

… if the inerrant Scripture in Gen 1 states that God created the world in six literal days, then why should we not simply accept it, rather than try to find all kinds of ways to explain it away? Sometimes the plain, simplest, most natural reading of the text is, indeed the best. Such is the case with Gen 1, despite all the attempts to explain it in some other, more complicated way. Dr Todd Beall (Professor of Old Testament, Capital Bible Seminary, Lanham, USA) )

I now hold to a literal six-day creation…Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four-hour periods. (R C Sproul)

…it seems to me that the natural reading of Genesis 1 is 24-hour days, not Day-Age. (John Piper)

God established the pattern of creation in seven days which constituted a complete week…(Day) cannot mean an age, but only a day, reckoned by the Jews from sunset to sunset.  Day with numerical adjectives in Hebrew always refers to a twenty-four hour period.  Confirming the order of the week in Exodus 20:8-11 confirms this understanding of the time element. (John MacArthur)

Of course, these are. like ourselves, but fallible men, but in a day and age when we who hold to the literal position of Scripture on this important issue appear to be in a derided minority, it’s good to remind ourselves that we are, at least, in great company!


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