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Sunday, August 08, 2010

"Day" not always a 24-hour period in Genesis?

The King James version of the Bible renders five verses of Genesis 2 thus:
4 These [are] the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and [there was] not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

The Blueletter Bible is very helpful. It posts 16 translations, 12 in English (the others are in Spanish, Latin, Greek and Hebrew). Here they are for Genesis 2:4, and here for Genesis 2:5, here for Genesis 2:6, here for Genesis 2:7, and here for Genesis 2:8. (To show these multiple translations for any verse in the Bible, locate it in the Blueletter Bible web pages, and then click on the V to the left of the verse.)

Some points to make.

Ten of the English versions use "day" here, much as the KJV has. Thus, even in the earliest parts of Genesis, "day" does not seem to always mean a 24-hour period, or the period between sunrise and sunset. Here, it seems to stand for the entire length of the time of creative activity.

The Blueletter Bible is also helpful, in that it has a Hebrew/Greek lexicon. If you click on the C to the left of Genesis 2:4, you will see the best guess we have at the original language. The KJV's "in the day" in that verse comes from the Hebrew word yowm. Clicking on the Strong's number, in this case H3117, shows us that that word has about the same sort of meanings that "day" does in English. That is, it can mean day, rather than night. It can mean a 24-hour period. It can mean a general time, or period.

At the right of the display is a list of where the word is found in the Old Testament. It's used a lot, 139 times in Genesis, and 146 in Deuteronomy, plus other times in each of the 39 books of the Old Testament. I decided to remain in Genesis, but to get past the creation narrative, and the "begats." So I went to the middle of Genesis, to page 4 of the 6 web pages used for H3117 in that book. The first use on that web page is Genesis 26:8, which uses yowm for "time" in the phrase "he had been there a long time."

It seems clear that yowm, although it is often used, in the Bible, for a 24-hour period, does not have to be.

Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

I think what you are getting at here is that these "other translations" may provide challenge to Creationism.

While on the face of it - yes.

I'm not certain that it does though.

The new movie Inception explains "time in a dream" very nicely. It "promotes" 15 minutes dreaming is one day in a dream. The main characters are in a dream for 2 hours - providing them a week inside a dream. One character remains in the dream another hour and is able to surpass decades of time in order to save another "also in the dream" that went into a coma in real life.

(Complicated to understand.)

Our dreams do not have the rules of man, the constraints of time and space applied to them. God created time, space, and the continuum in which they support one another. Scientists postulate it's possible to distort or bend this "fabric of time" in order to achieve space travel that would take 100's (even thousands) of years and constrain it to only a few hours.

I say, the days of creation WERE EACH 24 hours of mankind time, but in God's unlimited infinite mind were like a lucid dream.

An interesting note - have you ever been tired or sleepy from sleeping? I have because of an intense lucid dream sequence. Maybe, this time space lucid creation he made made him tired - he finally had to rest.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay.

It isn't the other versions, so much, as the original Hebrew, which seem to challenge the idea that a Biblical "day" always has to be 24 hours. Granted, Genesis 1 also says "evening and morning" for some of those days, and those sound like 24-hour days.

Visions or dreams related to the creation? Hmmm. Interesting.

I have trouble with the idea that an omnipotent God got tired.

Pete DeSanto said...

So what of "there was evening and there was morning" to mark the days?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Pete.

As I indicated in my previous comment, the mention of evening and morning are evidence that the creation days in Genesis 1 were literal 24-hour days (although that has been challenged by some scholars who take the Bible quite seriously). The theme of my post was that "day," in Hebrew and English, also has other meanings.

Pete DeSanto said...

Thanks Martin. I thought there was a broader point.

Martin LaBar said...

Not this time. Broader points have been made here.

Thanks, Pete.