The hope of theistic evolutionists hinges on the word “day.” In order for evolution to fit in Genesis one, “day” must represent long periods of undefined time, more than likely covering millions of years.
The Hebrew word for “day” is yom. The question is, does yom ever refer to a period of time other than 24 hours? The answer is yes. Even in the first two chapters of Genesis, “day” is used at least three different ways.
- “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (1:5) Here, Moses uses yom to indicate a 12-ish hour period.
- “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” (1:14). Here, Moses uses yom to indicate 24-hour days as they make up years.
- “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (2:4). Here, Moses uses yom in reference to the entire creative week.
But note first of all, that even though there are different definitions, none of them involve ages or eons.
(Outside of Genesis 1, yom + ordinal number (used 410 times) always indicates an ordinary day, i.e. a 24-hour period. The words “evening”” and “morning” together (38 times) always indicate an ordinary day. Yom + “evening” or “morning” (23 times each) always indicates an ordinary day. Yom + “night” (52 times) always indicates an ordinary day. See Ken Ham’s study guide on “yom.”)
Second, the context establishes how long a day is in Genesis one. Every single day in the chapter is defined. It starts in verses 3-5, God creates light, separates it from darkness, calls the light Day and the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day. The light/darkness, evening/morning, the [ X ] day formula is repeated for each of the first six days (verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
Third, there is no reason to take day in a figurative way, that is, as a metaphor or symbol of something else. Nothing else in the chapter is figurative. If “day” doesn’t mean “day,” why does “earth” mean “earth”? Why doesn’t “vegetation” represent something else? How can “man” mean “man”? It is strange, and inconsistent to suggest “day” means something other than what it typically does.
How do theistic evolutionists answer this?
According to young earth theory, the Sun was not created until Day Four, thus there could be no sunrise or sunset for the first three days of creation. However, God uses the terms evening and morning for those first three days. Therefore, they cannot be actual evenings and mornings. We are left with only one option. The words for Evening and Morning can only represent the beginning and ending of the creative period, and not actual sunrise and sunsets. (See Answers in Creation)
As if God could not create light or establish light/dark cycles apart from the sun, they simply ignore Moses’ account and force their assumptions into Genesis one.
Days are defined as solar days, 24 hour days as we know them today. It wasn’t millions of light/dark transitions in verse five that made the first “day.” Saying that a “day” represents long ages casts suspicion on every word in the account. The only reason to even suggest a day isn’t a day is because of presuppositions outside the text, and is the worst kind of eisegesis. Theistic evolution’s definition for “day” in Genesis one is perhaps one of the most fallacious and deplorable examples of reading into the text in all of Scripture.