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Was the universe created in six literal days?

 Is there a conflict between science and Genesis chapter 1?

Thanks for your question.

There is a controversy between science and some interpreters of the creation narrative in Genesis.It lies in the ideaof a narrow view of Genesis 1 which claims thatcreation was effected over a period of six literal days about 6,000 years ago while science says that theuniverse, as we know it, is from13-15 billion years old and the earth is about 4 billion years old.

There are a number of ways of approaching this.

  1. Some say that the days of creation are literal days of creative activity with everything having, necessarily, an appearance of age. For example, if Adam were created as an adult, he would appear to be, say, 20 years old, on the very day he came into existence. So with the universe. I don't buy this because that means that the earth would have been created complete with the fossils of animals which never actually lived. That seems rather deceptive to me. Why would God bother? Unless He just doesn't like scientists in general and wanted to trap them into their theories including that of Evolution. I think that is just short of nonsense and makes God into a liar.
  2. Another take is that the present creation did take place in 6 literal days but that, between verses 2 and 3 of Genesis 1 you can insert enough time and activity to account for the age of the Earth and the universe and the "pre-Adamic" life forms for which we have fossil evidence. To me, this is much more reasonable than item #1 but given the structure of the account I think the next view is the best and is best supported by scripture.
  3. The view I favour is that Genesis 1 is actually a vision of creation given to Adam (some say to Moses) over a period of 6 days. It was Adam who needed the rest on the 7th day not God (see Mark 2:27 - "The Sabbath was made for man..."). That gives the Bible a nice symmetry because that is exactly the kind of vision that the apostle John presents in the book of Revelation which highlights the development of God's "New Creation" culminating in the Kingdom of God. This approach issuccinctly presentedin a book called "Creation Revealed in Six Days" by P.J. Wiseman - a brilliant scholar and one of the foremost students of ancient Middle-Eastern history and culture who ever lived. There is another book which may be more readily available called, "Creation Revealed" by F.A. Filby. I wouldn't be surprised if both of these books are available in your library as both men are recognized scholars, pre-eminent in their fields of study. Note the structure of Genesis 1 -

1:1,2 Introduction

Day 1Light -----------------------------------> Day 4 Sun, moon, stars

Day 2 Sea and sky-------------------------> Day5 Life in the water; life in the sky

Day 3 Dry land and vegetation --------> Day 6 Land animals and mankind

2:1-3 Colophon (conclusion)

Thislooks more like a revelatory structure to me than a record of the actual creation. On "Day 4" we have that wonderful "throw-away line" - "He made the stars also." This was an earth-centric view of creation designed (I think) as part of Adam's curriculum of Education in order allow him to know where he came from and the power, majesty, and more importantly, loving care of the God who created him.

To my mind, there is absolutely no contradiction between the time periods postulated by science and the Bible. Where we differ from some scientists is in the theory of Evolution which claims that all of creation can be explained by natural forces and blind chance working over aeons of time. The Bible clearly presents the fact that creation has a Divine origin and that mankind was especially created in order to reflect God's glory and to have fellowship with Him.
I hope you have found this helpful.
God bless,
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