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Rebecca asked:

How do you explain Day 1 and Day 4 in the first chapter of Genesis? And how can there be an evening and a morning if the sun had not been created yet? Any ideas?

You’ve raise questions that many have shared, myself included. Finding satisfactory answers required digging deep into the Scriptures. Not into the language in my KJV or other English versions but into the Hebrew in which the scriptures were first recorded and then preserved for thousands of years.

What I did I call “forensic linguistics”.Using an interlinear English and Hebrew bible and several good dictionaries, I looked at each and every word of the Hebrew texts, analyzed its context, usage, and all the various meanings ascribed it by the dictionaries, and how it was interpreted in all its occurrences in the Old Testament.

The place to start is with the word “day”. The “day” that you ask about is a translation of the Hebrew word usually transliterated as “yowm”. Transliteration is our written representation of the sound a Hebrew reader will utter when reading it. Yowm,in Genesis 1, has traditionally been assumed to mean a “day” – and not just by English translators. Nonetheless, I’m convinced, that’s not been a good assumption. Yowm, throughout the OT, rarely meant “day”, especially a 24 hour, one earth revolution, full light and dark cycle type of day. Outside of Genesis 1, yowm usually denotes a long period of time, like a season or era. Or its a pointer to a certain time, like “in that time”. Only occasionally it refers to a part of a day, like a work day, but even then it is almost always a daylight portion of the day.

Take away that (probable) misinterpretation of yowm and we get both God and Genesis out of a very tight box that we’ve put them in over history, and we get our thinking much more aligned with the nature of God: He is bigger than the universe, outside of and unbound by time itself, and hardly needs to use this small planet’s ever-changing rotational period to demarcate himself or His deeds. If you look through the entire OT, God almost never designates precise times or dates as if He’s on a calendar. Hezekiah was told he had 15 years to live, but that’s most exceptional, perhaps the only time He  specifies an exact time. Mostly, God seems quite content to give us only vague ideas of “when” and “how long”.

So, replace “days” in Genesis 1 with something like “in the first (or 4th) time or period or phase of creation”. Do that and you take away almost every problem we or scientists or unbelievers have with understanding or reconciling our logic or experience or scientific beliefs with the Genesis record of creation events. Let yowm be longer, even indeterminate/vague, spans of time. Do that and all the heavenly lights don’t have to blink on as if on a switch. All the water on the planet doesn’t need to rush off to form one huge sea in just a few hours, nor do all the land and mountains need to rise up and dry off in a few hours.

Now let’s address the evening/morning thing. The whole phrase, finishing each of the six yowm of creation is (NKJV), “So the evening and the morning were the first (or fourth, etc.) day.” I think I can make a good case for that being another misinterpretation.

Before I start let me tell you a bit more of what every translator has to deal with. First, its the fact that the old archaic Hebrew writing system ignored vowels. The spoken language had plenty of them, but the written omitted them. Readers, and translators, had to guess or fill in the vowels as best they could. And that’s not all. There was also no punctuation and no separation of words, That’s right, the text was just one long run of consonants. Written Hebrew functioned more as a mnemonic system meant to guide generations of speakers, than a text to be read. Readers had to know (remember) what the text was really about so they could cut up the consonant strings correctly and supply the right vowels. They, in other words, had to essentially memorize the text. You try that, memorizing the Old Testament! Add to that the fact that the written holy book, itself, was lost and no one could use it, for generations during the exile. So obviously, our present-day reading, and translating, of the Scriptures requires a lot of guessing and reconstruction!

So how did we come up with that curious “evening and morning” phrase. The Hebrew word our bibles interpret as “evening” is, in the modern interlinear, ereb. Many scholars think it’s derived from arab. Same word in writing, but opting for two “a’s” instead of “e’s”. Similarly, “morning” comes from boqer, a word thought to be derived from baqar . Same word in writing, just different vowels. If we replace ereb and boqer with the other two (and there’s no linguistic reason not to) the odd phrase is gone. It can then be translated, approximately, “it is sure to come to be exactly that way, guaranteed”, because arab references a pledge or guarantee, and baqar says it will happen or come to be. With that, each creation yowm concludes with God simply assuring us that the creation He describes there (somewhat as an architect or designer would) is already a done deal.

Finally, your last concern:

Actually, the sun was made, or ordained, in Genesis 1:3. What is happening in Genesis 1:16 – 18 (yowm 4)? It seems a bit odd, like a U-turn back to stuff already addressed, stuff that should likely have been finished by the time life was begun on earth. I see it as God speaking parenthetically, as an aside, drawing our attention to something, and explaining the why of it. He wanted to be sure we noticed and understood His plan: that the heavenly bodies and layout of the universe itself, which was yet being created by his will, had some extra purpose relevant to us here on earth, namely, to give us a way to get a handle on time! Time is essentially meaningless to Him, but huge to us. He is outside of, greater than, unbound by time, but we are carried along by it as if on a great roller coaster. Its beyond our ken and our understanding, but it rules OUR existence with a ruthless hand, sweeping us along from womb to grave. No two of us experience it the same, and in biblical times, had no way to even compare notes about it. So here He gives us something to  measure it with, compare and share our place in it with others, and keep us all oriented and on the same page.