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Could all of the events recorded on the 6th day of creation really have taken place during a normal, 24-hour-type day?



Adam in Garden. Copyrighted. Courtesy of Films for Christ.

For many Bible believing Christians, it is difficult to believe that creation really took place in only 6, normal, 24-hour-type days. They reason that most modern scientists believe that the universe is billions of years old. Additionally, how could God do all that is recorded for each day of creation in such a short period of time? For instance, the sixth day is especially hard to understand. They suppose that the events between Adam's creation and Eve's would require far more than 24 hours, especially since we are told that Adam named all of the animals on the sixth day.

The reason that many people question this portion of Scripture is that they have misunderstood the biblical account. Not only does Genesis not say that Adam named all the animals, but many people fail to understand the implications of God's purpose in bringing them to Adam. Here is what the main verses involved say, "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found" (Genesis 2:19-20, NIV—emphasis added).

THE BIBLE DOES NOT SAY THAT ADAM NAMED ALL THE ANIMALS, or all the birds and mammals. Thus, the first misunderstanding is in the claim that God commanded Adam to "name all the animals". A smaller group of animals was involved: livestock, flying birds, and beasts of the field (Genesis 2:20). Note that Adam was told to name the beasts-of-the-field, not beasts-of-the-earth (evidently the field-beasts were a sub-set of the larger category, beasts-of-the-earth—Genesis 1:24,25). Various commentators agree that these field-beasts were animals that lived in or near the Garden. Other animals were also excluded from this initial naming event. These include the fish, water-dwelling mammals, and "creatures that move along the ground" (Genesis 1:24, NIV), including most reptiles, insects and many of the small mammals. Thus, a very large number of animals are eliminated from naming on Day Six.

How many animals were involved in this lesser group?

Dr. Henry Morris suggests perhaps 3,000 kinds. [Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 97] Progressive Creationist Dr. Hugh Ross assumes a far larger number, probably hundreds of thousands. However, it is interesting to note that not all Progressive Creationists agree with Ross on this point. For example, theologian Dr. Gleason Archer estimated that "many hundreds of species must have been involved" in the original creation, not thousands as others propose. [Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible, edited by Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 326—emphasis added]

It should be noted that the modern term “species” is foreign to the context of the Bible. Genesis tells us that God created every animal according to its own “kind.” It is probable that there were far fewer “kinds” at the time of Creation than there are “species” today. Progressive Creationist Walter Bradley agrees that "God created the major types of animals and plant life and then used process to develop the tremendous variety of life forms we observe today." [Walter L. Bradley, Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible, edited by Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 290—emphasis added] How many animal kinds were in this lesser group? It is impossible to know.

“All” does not necessarily mean each and every.

Hebrew grammars and lexicons demonstrate that the word “all” can have numerous applications and points of emphasis. The Bible sometimes uses “all” when referring to “each and every” member of the modified subject, as in Romans 3:23: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (NASB). In this case, it is obvious that “all” refers to every human who has ever existed—each and every person. However, concerning John the Baptist, the Bible uses “all” differently. "Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan" (Matthew 3:5, NASB). In this case, few would argue that “all” refers to each and every man, woman and child. Thus we find that “all” may be used in many different ways in Hebrew and Greek, just as in English. Within the syntax of Genesis 2:20, we note that the author uses “all” with the singular noun (“beast”).

Various Hebrew scholars confirm that this construction emphasizes the collective usage of the noun, rather than each individual in that category. This argument does not deny that group categories are made up of individual kinds of animals, yet it is the collective nature of these categories which is emphasized. [Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, pp. 410-11 (127b-c); Francis Brown, et al, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), p. 481] Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that in Genesis 2:20, “all” could refer to the collective nature of God's creation. Thus, Adam would only have named the number of animals required to fulfill God's purpose for this task.

What was the purpose of Adam’s task?

The main purpose seems to make Adam discover his unique aloneness. He was the only one without a mate. This is suggested by the entire context of these verses. The naming process was surely not meant to be a lesson in taxonomy. Neither did God bring the animals to Adam to temporarily eliminate any feelings of loneliness. The Bible emphasizes that the main point of this lesson was learned by Adam, "but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:20, NASB).

Understanding the purpose, how much time was necessary?

Understanding the purpose of this naming exercise is important to estimating how long the process might have taken. The number of animals would be determined by how long it would take Adam to fully get the point. Since Adam was created in God's image, the image of One who communicates and shares in loving relationships, it seems doubtful that Adam would have needed years, months, weeks, or even days to understand the importance of companionship. It is probable that Adam, placed in the midst of such an excellent illustration, would have realized his own need for a helper in only a matter of hours.

Having seen that the naming process of the animals would not necessarily require the 6th day to be an extended period of time, many still wonder if too many other things happened on Day Six for it to be a normal length day. What events does Genesis 1-2 list for Day Six?

  • God created livestock, beasts of the earth, and everything that creeps on the earth.

  • God created Adam.

  • God planted the Garden.

  • God talked to Adam.

  • God brought certain animals to Adam.

  • Adam named animals.

  • God created Eve.

We find no reason to doubt that these events could all have happened during a normal 24-hour day. Our all-powerful Creator is easily capable of doing far, far more than this in 24 hours. He said that He did these things in a single day, and we believe Him.

The sixth day problem for progressive creationism

Although the events of Day Six are no problem for Young-Earth creationists, they create a virtually impossible scenario for Progressive Creationists:

Too many animals over enormous areas, separated by vast oceans?

Many Progressive Creationists claim that Adam was commanded to name all of the animals, which they claim consists of all the birds and mammals. According to them, animals lived all around the world on each of today's continents. How then was Adam to name all the animals, since some were unique to specific continents? It would be nearly impossible for Adam to get to the animals to observe them in their natural habitats as they suggest is required, let alone name such a huge number. This could not be done in one day, nor in one lifetime.

“Meticulous” Adam would be even worse off

Dr. Ross claims that “Adam in his perfect state would be all the more meticulous in performing his God-assigned tasks.” [Dr. Hugh Ross, Creation and Time, p.51] In other words, rather than speeding Adam, his sin-free body, brain and mind would supposedly slow him down. Ross implies that Adam had to meticulously analyze each creature before naming it. If all the animals on each continent had to be named, the task becomes Herculean. Even if Adam was asked to name just the animals in his part of the world, such a task would surely take a lifetime, not just a few years. Clearly such a period and process are not implied from the biblical text.

Why keep Adam lonely for so long?

Even if Adam took a minimum time of a few years (it is hard to imagine any shorter time given this interpretation of the text), how are we to understand such an illogical assignment from God? The Creator said, "It is not good for the man to be alone…" (Genesis 2:18, NASB). Why would God require Adam to live “alone” in a condition that was “not good” for so long? This is not the kind of God we know.

Conclusion

Many Christians argue that the events of the sixth day could not be accomplished in a normal 24-hour period. This does not stand up to biblical investigation. We must not make the text say more than it actually says. When we take the meaning from the text (rather than reading current ideas into the text), there is no reason to doubt that all of the events of Day Six occurred during a normal length day.


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