The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

Why we need to take Genesis 1-2 literally

While genuine, Bible loving, Christians take different stances on Genesis 1 and 2, I believe it is vital and necessary that we take a literal, 6 day view of creation and the account given to us in Genesis 1-2.  It is vital and necessary for a number of reasons, which we will consider over several blog posts.


The plain reading of Scripture couldn’t be clearer.

Six times in Genesis 1 we have the phrase “And there was evening and there was morning, the (number) day.”   A double reference there, in each occurrence, that should lead us to believe that Moses, the human author of this text, would have us think of a day as we know it, a period of 24 hours.  Indeed, it’s hard to think of him choosing more confusing terms and words if he hadn’t wanted us to think of a normal day.

The word translated day is the Hebrew word yom which can and does sometimes refer to an infinite period of time but, when linked to a specific number – as in Genesis 1, only and ever means a 24 hour day. Here, yom cannot mean an age but a day, as reckoned by the Jews from sunset to sunset.

Even non-evangelical writers like August Dillman and John Skinner agree.

“The reasons advanced by ancient and modern writers for construing these days to be longer periods of time are inadequate.” [1]

“The interpretation of yom as aeon, a favourite resource of harmonies of science and revelation, is opposed to the plain sense of the passage and has no warrant in Hebrew usage.” [2]

Interestingly, we have another identical use of yom in Numbers 7 which details the bringing of offerings for the Tabernacle by the 12 tribes.  Each day a different tribal leader brings their contribution to Moses who is stationed at the Tabernacle, and twelve times you have the expression “On the (number) day”.  

I have yet to read a scholar or preacher, evangelical or otherwise, who has ventured to suggest that Moses was sitting around for 12 aeons or 12 indefinite periods of time. Rather there, as in Genesis 1, the plain, unavoidable sense, is that these are normal 24 hour periods of time as we know them today.  It is inconsistent to interpret yom literally in Exodus and not in Genesis.

Of course, Genesis 1 isn’t the only place in the Bible where God tells us that he created everything in six 24 hour periods of time:

  • Exodus 20:11 – “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…”
  • Exodus 31:17 – “…in six days the Lord made heaven and earth”

To interpret Genesis 1 as meaning that God created the world over a longer period of time than six literal days is to misinterpret the plain sense of the text, but that is precisely what many teachers and preachers are doing.

However, if the textual evidence is so convincing, why is it then that so many Christians take a different position? The answer lies in the way they interpret, or rather misinterpret, the text, and that is to do with the application of HERMENEUTICAL principles, the rules or interpreting Scripture. That’s where we’ll turn next time.

[1] Skinner, J. (1882). Die Genesis. Leipzig: S Hirzel.

[2] Dillman, A. (1925). International Critical Commentary (Genesis) . New York: Scribner’s Sons

Next post in this series


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *