Does Genesis One Conflict with Science? Day-Age Interpretation
by Rich Deem

Genesis vs. Science

The most common Genesis interpretation promulgated in the U.S.A. is young earth creationism, which claims that the earth and the entire universe were created within the last 10,000 years. However, this interpretation suffers both biblical and scientific problems.

Rich Deem


I believe in what has been called the "day-age" interpretation of Genesis one - that is, that each "day" is actually a long period of time during which God created life. This interpretation is not figurative in any way, but adheres to the scientific method in its analysis of the biblical texts. At its foundation is a literal translation of the Hebrew word, yom, which can mean a twelve hour period of time, a twenty-four hour period of time, or a long, indefinite period of time. The biblical basis for the translation of the word yom as long periods of time appear on another page.

Purpose of the creation account

I would first like to point out that God has not revealed the entire creation process in the Genesis creation account, but only that which is particularly relevant to mankind. Many events in the creation account of the Bible have been intentionally left out (unicellular life forms, dinosaurs, etc.), I believe, because they would have been difficult to express in the Hebrew language, and would have lead to confusion, since they would not have been understood through the vast majority of mankind's existence (i.e., only understandable in the last two centuries). The interpretation of the Genesis creation account should not be made independently of the remainder of the Bible, as many "young-earth" creationists do. The interpretation presented here is based upon the creation accounts found throughout the entire Bible (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.1) as it relates to God's creation of the heavens and the Earth, and is consistent with all the biblical texts in addition to the revelations of science.

The Bible was the first written work to describe the expanding universe model for the universe (indicated by verses stating that God spreads out the heavens, 2), which is consistent with the Big Bang model.

Day-Age Genesis Interpretation
Interpretation Day Genesis text (NASB)
Most people read the Genesis creation account without using the scientific method and, therefore, make assumptions that are not supported by the text. For example, the first rule of the scientific method is to establish the initial conditions, or the frame of reference. Genesis 1:2 clearly states that the frame of reference is "the surface of the waters" of the earth. Most people have made the mistake of assuming the frame of reference of Genesis 1 is heaven or somewhere above the earth.

What does the text specifically say? The heavens (universe, solar system, sun, earth, etc.) were already created before the first "day" (Genesis 1:1, ~14 x 109 years ago). Science tells us that the entire planet was covered in a global sea soon after its creation (3). In other verses, the Bible says that the earth is controlled by the heavens, refuting geocentrism (4). In Genesis 1:2, God was "hovering or brooding" over the seas of the newly formed earth (4.4-3.8 x 109 years ago, 5). We know from science this is where the first unicellular life forms first appeared (6). The Hebrew word, rachaph, translated as "hovering or brooding" is used only twice in the Old Testament. The second reference is to an eagle caring for its young (7). Therefore, it seems likely that the use of the word rachaph in Genesis 1:2 may be referring to God creating the first life forms in the sea.


1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

1:2 And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Both science and the Bible (8) have told us that at the earth's creation, it was covered with a dense layer of clouds and gases which would have made it dark at its surface. Genesis 1:2 says, "darkness was over the surface of the deep." Next, God removed much of the cloud cover, when He stated, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3) This was the light of the Sun (already created) which now "separated light from darkness" (Genesis 1:4). It is very clear from the text that the sun had already been created and the earth was rotating on its axis, since there was light (day) and darkness (night) (Genesis 1:5). D

1:3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

1:5 And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Genesis 1:6-10 describe the initiation of a stable water cycle (9) and formation of continents (10) through tectonic activity (~2.7 x 109 years ago) (11).

1:6 Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."
1:7 And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.
1:8 And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
1:9 Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so.
1:10 And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
Plant life was created on the third day (Genesis 1:11-13, ~1.0 x 109 years ago). These verses are probably the strongest argument for the day-age interpretation. The verse says quite clearly that the earth sprouted (or brought forth) vegetation and fruit trees bearing fruit. The English word translated "vegetation" on the third day comes from the Hebrew word deshe', which refers to small plants, such as grasses and herbs. The other word, ‛eśeb, translated "plants" is even more generic, referring to any kind of green plant. So, the "day" encompasses the time from the formation of the first plants until the formation of the angiosperms. The process described is clearly similar to what we see today. Fruit trees take years to bear fruit, testifying that the third "day" could not possibly be just 24 hours long, as claimed by young earth creationists. Recent scientific evidence shows that plant life began on the land ~1 billion years ago (12) D

1:11 Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth"; and it was so.
1:12 And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.
1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
Next the translucent cloud layer was removed so that the sun, moon and stars shown through. Notice the unusual construction in Genesis 1:14 which states, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;'" "Let there be" is an unusual way to describe de novo creation (see also verse 1:3). I believe that at this point God removed the translucent cloud cover from the planet to allow the stars, moon, and Sun to be seen from the surface of the earth (the frame of reference of all Genesis 1). The text then reiterates what God had already done in Genesis 1:1 regarding the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The time frame describes events over days, seasons, and years - obviously more than 24 hours long. D

1:14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;
1:15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth ";and it was so.
1:16 And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.
1:17 And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,
1:18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Birds (13) (~70 x 106 years ago), whales (14) (~50 x 106 years ago) and sea mammals ("swarms of living creatures," where "creatures" is the Hebrew word nephesh, referring to soulish animals - those that can form relationships with humans) were created on the "fifth" day (Genesis 1:20-21), which would correspond to the end of the Cretaceous period/beginning of the Tertiary.
The fifth day describes a period of time longer than 24 hours as swarms of living creatures are multiplying in the sea.

1:20 Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens."
1:21 And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
1:22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."
1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
On the sixth day God created the "beasts of the earth" (in Genesis 1:25 the Hebrew word is chayyah, which is best translated as "wild animal," usually referring to carnivorous mammals (15) (the extinct families Miacidae and Viverravidae, appeared ~50 x 106 years ago or current families Canidae, Felidae, Mustelidae, and Viverridae appeared ~30 x 106 years ago ) and the cattle (the Hebrew word is behemah, from which we get the word behemoth, the artiodactyls (large grazing mammals) appeared ~15 x 106 years ago) and the rodents (mammals that "creep on the ground"). Therefore, the wild and domesticated mammals and rodents were created on the sixth day. D

1:24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind"; and it was so.

1:25 And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
The last creation of God was mankind, who was also created at the end of the sixth day. What about humans and three million year old fossil remains of bipedal An order of mammals including man, apes, monkeys, etc., often characterized by large brains and flexible hands and feet.primates? I believe in a literal Adam and Eve, although I do not believe they lived millions of years ago. The Bible indicates that Adam and Eve had a relationship with God (Genesis 2-3) and the text says that unique among all the animals, humans are endowed with a spirit (Hebrew, ruach, Greek, pneuma), by which they are able to communicate with and love God. Scientists have found no evidence of religious artifacts before about 25,000 to 50,000 years ago (16), which is the point at which I propose God created Adam and Eve. The Bible states that the covenant and laws of God have been proclaimed to a "thousand generations" (17). A biblical generation, described as being 40 years, would represent at least 40,000 years of human existence. However, since the first dozen or more generations were nearly 1,000 years, this would make humans nearly 50,000 years old, which agrees very well with dates from paleontology and molecular biology (see Descent of Mankind Theory: Disproved by Molecular Biology). Therefore, I believe that bipedal An order of mammals including man, apes, monkeys, etc., often characterized by large brains and flexible hands and feet.primates that existed before Adam and Eve, were just part of the animal kingdom, and were not endowed with the characteristics that make humans distinct from animals. D

1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

1:27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Conclusion Top of page

Of all the "holy books" the Bible is the only book that correctly describes the order of creation as revealed through science.

References Top of page

  1. See Genesis 1-11, Job 9, Job 34-41, Psalms 65, 104, 139, 147, 148, Proverbs 8, Ecclesiastes 1, 3, 8-12, Isaiah 40-51, Romans 1-8, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4, Hebrews 1, 4, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 20-22.
  2. The following verses suggest that God created the universe through an expanding universe - what science has called the Big Bang. In many cases the Hebrew text indicates present tense - a process still continuing.
    • Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
    • Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
    • It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
    • Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
    • Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
    • "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
    • "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
    • That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
    • The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)
  3. Tsuyoshi Komiya, T. 2011. Continental recycling and true continental growth. Russian Geology and Geophysics 52: 15161529.
  4. "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth?" (Job 38:33)
  5. Wilde, S.A., J.W. Valley, W.H. Peck, C.M. Graham. 2001. Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago. Nature 409: 175-178.
    Mojzsis, S.J., T.M. Harrison, R. T. Pidgeon. 2001. Oxygen-isotope evidence from ancient zircons for liquid water at the Earth's surface 4,300 Myr ago. Nature 409: 178-181.
     Halliday, A.N. 2001. Earth science: In the beginning. . . Nature 409: 144-145.
  6. Schidlowski, M. 1988. A 3,800-million-year isotopic record of life from carbon in sedimentary rocks. Nature 333: 313-318.
    Schopf, J.W. 1993. Microfossils of the early Archean Apex Chert: new evidence of the antiquity of life. Science 260: 640-646.
    Mojzsis, S.J. Arrhenius, G. McKeegan, K.D. Harrison, T.M. Nutman, A.P. Friend, C.R.L. 1996. Evidence for life on Earth before 3,800 million years ago. Nature Japan 384.
  7. "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers (rachaph) over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions." (Deuteronomy 32:11)
  8. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding... Or who enclosed the sea with doors, When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band" (Job 38:4-9)
  9. "For He draws up the drops of water, They distill rain from the mist, Which the clouds pour down, They drip upon man abundantly." (Job 36:27)
  10. Rudnick, R. 1995. Making continental crust. Nature 378:571-578
    Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains... The mountains rose; the valleys sank down To the place which Thou didst establish for them. Thou didst set a boundary that they may not pass over; That they may not return to cover the earth. (Psalm 104:6-9)
    The LORD by wisdom founded the Earth; By understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up... (Proverbs 3:19)
  11. Hofmann, A.W. 1997. Early Evolution of Continents. Science 275: 498.
    Paul J. Sylvester, P.J., I. H. Campbell, D. A. Bowyer. 1997. Niobium/Uranium Evidence for Early Formation of the Continental Crust . Science 275: 521-523.
  12. Strother, P. K., L. Battison, M. D. Brasier and C. H. Wellman. 2011. Earth's earliest non-marine eukaryotes. Nature doi:10.1038/nature099.
  13. Feduccia, A. 1995. Explosive evolution in tertiary birds and mammals. Science 267: 637-638
  14. Gingerich, PD., Raza, SM., Arif, M, Anwar, M, and Ahou, X. 1994. Nature 368: 844-847
  15. Carroll, R.L. 1988. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution., W.H. Freeman Co., New York.
  16. Simon, C. 1981. Stone-age sanctuary, oldest known shrine, discovered in Spain. Science News 120: 357.
     Bower, B. 1986. When the human spirit soared. Science News 130: 378-379.
  17. "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;" (Deuteronomy 7:9)
    Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, (1 Chronicles 16:15)
    He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, (Psalm 105:8)
Last Modified December 4, 2013


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