If we were to understand Genesis 1 in completely literal fashion—which some suppose to be the only proper principle of interpretation if the Bible is truly inerrant and completely trustworthy—then there would be no possibility of reconciliation between modern scientific theory and the Genesis account. But a true and proper belief in the inerrancy of Scripture involves neither a literal nor a figurative rule of interpretation. What it does require is a belief in whatever the biblical author (human and divine) actually meant by the words he used.…

As we have compared Scripture with Scripture (Gen. 1:27 with 2:15–22), it has become very apparent that Genesis 1 was never intended to teach that the sixth creative day, when Adam and Eve were created, lasted a mere 24 hours.…

Some have argued that the reference in the Decalogue (commandment four) to God’s resting on the seventh day as a basis for honoring the seventh day of each week strongly suggests the literal nature of “day” in Genesis 1. This is not at all compelling, however, in view of the fact that if there was to be any day of the week especially set aside from labor to center on the worship and service of the Lord, then it would have to be a 24-hour day (Saturday) in any event. As a matter of fact, Scripture does not at all teach that Yahweh rested only one 24-hour day at the conclusion of his creative work. No closing formula occurs at the close of the seventh day, referred to in Genesis 2:2–3. And, in fact, the New Testament teaches (in Heb. 4:1–11) that the seventh day, that “Sabbath rest,” has continued on right into the church age.

One last observation concerning the word yom as used in Genesis 2:4. Unlike some of the modern versions, the KJV correctly renders this verse: “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.” Since the previous chapter has indicated that there were at least six days involved in creating the heavens and the earth, it is abundantly evident that yom in Genesis 2:4 cannot possibly be meant as a 24-hour day.

Digested from the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, by Gleason Archer (Zondervan, 1982).

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