Published on June 29, 2017 by Steve West

Crux Press, 2001 | 319 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance



The Genesis Debate is written by three pairs of scholars representing different views on the nature of the days of creation in Genesis. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall represent the 24-hour view, Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer represent the day-age view, and Lee Irons and Meredith Kline represent the literary framework view. Each team writes an essay defending their position, to which the other teams reply. Each team is also given the opportunity to provide a final response.


Table of Contents

Foreword: Norman L. Geisler
Introduction: David G. Hagopian

Part 1: The 24-Hour View
The Day-Age Response
The Framework Response
The 24-Hour Reply
Part 2: The Day-Age View
The 24-Hour Response
The Framework Response
The Day-Age Reply
Part 3: The Framework View
The 24-Hour Response
The Day-Age Response
The Framework Reply

Conclusion: David. G. Hagopian


Part 1: The 24-Hour View – Duncan and Hall

We do not take a stand on the age of the universe since Scripture does not directly address that issue, but the Scriptures do refer to creation “days” so we will focus on the meaning of “day.” There really has not been a debate on the meaning of “day” until the late nineteenth century. Textual exegesis makes it perfectly clear that “day” refers to a normal 24-hour period. The only reason this conclusion is doubted is because of non-exegetical considerations. Classical exegesis should be privileged over recent theorizing and attempts at harmonization between Genesis and scientific theories. The creation account teaches us that God created and shaped the world, forming it to be fruitful and good. Human beings rebelled against him and sinned, and God acted in both justice and mercy. None of these theological truths necessitate rejecting a normal interpretation of “day.”

God’s existence and creative activity is the best philosophical explanation for the existence and complexity of the universe. God forms the world and then fills the world. The beauty of the literary triads (where the days of forming and filling correspond), the theological implications, and the apologetic purposes of this text do not overturn the conclusions of literal exegesis. Throughout church history, the church’s greatest minds have interpreted the meaning of “day” as a 24-hour normal day. As Calvin noted, God’s work in a literal 7 day week reveals to us the pattern for our work, too. Scientific theories change, so science must not control our exegesis. If we assume the text is figurative, how do we determine which details to take literally? The phrase “morning and evening” has suggested normal days to readers throughout history. The seventh day is not an unbounded, ongoing day, but a gift of God for Sabbath rest. Genesis depicts God’s creative work as occurring immediately through his word, not through long periods of time or natural providence. Nowhere in the Pentateuch is there any hint that the days are not 24-hour periods. In Exodus 20, God’s Sabbath commandment is based on a literal 7 day week, as the church has understood throughout its history.

Throughout the rest of the canon, God’s immediate creative activity in a short—not long—period of time is praised. Job, Psalms, and Proverbs praise God for his immediate work which did not develop over long periods of time. The prophetic books are fully in accord with these views. It was not until contemporary scientific theories were propounded that people began to re-exegete these passages and reach conclusions that are foreign to the plain meaning of the texts. As we would expect, the New Testament is completely consistent with the Old Testament teaching. John’s Gospel teaches us that God created directly through the logos. Jesus never taught anything that even reinterpreted Moses’ teaching about creation in six literal days. Hebrews 11:3 asserts that we must have faith in God in order to have a proper view of creation. Nowhere in the NT do we find anything other than God directly creating all things ex nihilo through his word. In the end, those who want to reject the church’s historical interpretation of the biblical data must rely on considerations that are simply not exegetical. The church’s interpretation has been uniform throughout the first 1800 years of its history, shared by scholars and non-scholars like.

God did not create the sun until the fourth day, but he is obviously able to provide light without the sun, and also to create in three 24-hour periods before making the sun. All of the events that are described in Genesis 2:5-25 could have occurred in one day. The description of events in Genesis 2 complements and harmonizes with the description of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:4. It is prejudiced to assume that modern interpreters are more accurate than previous generations of interpreters. This is especially the case when the conclusions are not derived through careful exegesis, but are derived through accommodation to shifting, provisional scientific fashions.

The Day-Age Response – Ross and Archer

We agree with much of what was said, but Duncan and Hall present every view except their own as an unthinkable capitulation to atheistic theories. Duncan and Hall quote Isaac Newton as affirming their position, when he actually rejected the 24-hour interpretation. They also fail to quote from many church fathers who taught that the days represented longer periods of time. They assume that when people referred to God’s creation in 6 days, those people were indicating 24-hour periods, rather than simply mirroring biblical language. The exact nature of the days was not a relevant issue until more recently, with new scientific discoveries providing new information. We are able to read the Book of Nature and understand what God has revealed. In fact, our knowledge of nature is increasing exponentially, and to reject this data is a terrible loss. Duncan and Hall fail to appreciate the continuity of natural laws that have existed throughout the entire history of the universe, and as a result their exegesis is strained (e.g. positing a non-solar light source and the growth of plants without sun and moon, both of which are absolutely necessary). They also believe Adam performed superhuman feats in accomplishing all that was required on the sixth day (if it was 24 hours), and they fail to recognize the length of the seventh day. Their list of biblical passages across the canon simply fails to prove what they want—they read their precise view into texts that are just not discussing the issue of the length of days.

The Framework Response – Irons and Kline

The real issue is whether careful exegesis requires a 24-hour day interpretation, but Duncan and Hall spend much of their time arguing that the way the text has been interpreted in history is what counts. They set up strawmen and knock them down, rather than engaging the strength of the other views—they don’t reference the best works of their opponents or take care to be accurate in representing other positions. They assert that our position calls God’s omnipotence into question, but this is an illogical inference and against our published statements. Duncan and Hall are forced to engage in speculation rather than exegesis when they attempt to relate the first and fourth days. Likewise, they ignore the data that indicates that the seventh day is not a 24-hour period. Their quotations of Bible verses merely establish that God is the creator. None of the texts they cite declare that God’s creative work was direct and instantaneous, without any process or secondary causation. Until recently, believers did not teach that creation occurred over long periods of time, but throughout history many did teach that the Genesis account was figurative. Duncan and Hall put the tradition of the church—which they misread—as the hermeneutical key to their exegesis, despite the fact that better exegesis is on offer today.

The 24-Hour Reply – Duncan and Hall

Nothing in our opponents’ positions overturns the strength of the traditional, exegetical opinion that we find expressed throughout church history. Nothing in the Bible would place long periods of time between God saying and it being so, and nothing makes the word “day” in Genesis 1 anything other than a 24-hour period. Our opponents’ appeal to the church fathers takes them out of context. The consensus view of church history is the one that we share. This view is clearly shared and endorsed by the great commentators in the Middle Ages and the Reformation. Many noted that the sun was created three days after the creation of light, but they believed the original light was a supernatural creation that came from a non-solar source; it was a miracle. Innovative interpretations only appear after Darwin, and are not based on exegetical insights; they are based on attempted harmonization with new scientific theories. One will look in vain for. . .

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The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation

Crux Press, 2001 | 319 pages

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