Considering the Possibility of a Creation Involving “Deep Time” (Part 1) – Rich Cloud, PPCF Chairman
(Part 1: Lexical Examination of Definitions, Usage and Translations of Hebrew “TIME” Words)
Does the Hebrew language, both its words and grammatical structure, allow for
both the expression and concept of longs ages of time in the Genesis 1 Creation
If so, does the idea of long ages describe God’s intent for the Creation Account?
The view held within Biblical Creation teaching1 (hereafter BC) is that the Creation Account of Genesis 1 contains both a factual history and an accurate time line for this entire section of Scripture from the beginning of created time. In addition, the recorded content within the entire passage of Genesis 2 through 11 is also recognized as describing real events and people via these textual accounts, which include the origin of sin, the yearlong global flood and the dispersion of mankind. When these events are combined with the two genealogies detailed in chapters 5 and 11 of Genesis, this entire portion of Genesis encompasses the timeline of history from Creation to Abraham. This complete account would then provide a defined measure and comprehensive time frame for this history as revealed within these passages contained in Genesis 1 to 11.
There are, however, several differing views about the creation account recorded in Genesis 1. Nearly all of these remaining views include a significantly extended time frame for this Creation passage. These multiple, extended time views have been identified as including the concept of a “deep time” understanding (hereafter DT) for the Creation. Thus, each of these DT views accommodate long ages of indefinite lengths of time for these days of Genesis 1 or extended intervals of time between these days to produce an outcome of DT. These multiple extended time views have become more prevalent during recent centuries and are now increasingly embraced within much of Christian teaching and academia over the past several decades.
The apparent cause for these DT perceptions, which have become increasingly accepted as viable for the text, do not seem to be primarily driven by any newly developed understanding of the Genesis account. Instead, they appear to be focused upon providing a pathway for Christian scholarship to better fit within the secular science paradigm, a paradigm which requires enormous amounts of DT since the beginning of the universe. Each of these approaches nearly always relies upon knowledge sources from outside of Scripture (i.e., eisegetical) to establish and define this new way of approaching the “what and how” of creation.
The initial goal for each of these DT approaches appears focused on accommodating this adapted understanding into the Biblical text. One obvious outcome, when promoting each of these DT views, is to seek a consistent outcome with what secular science teaches about history and time. The overriding idea behind this is to accept the conceptual history and time presented by this secular viewpoint which is consistent with the underlying presuppositions of naturalistic science. In following this path, it should seem obvious that such attempts will cause grave harm to the truth content and authority of God’s Word.
Despite this endeavor to be amenable towards secular science, the response to these multiple efforts by the advocates of this same secular view has often resulted in harsh reactions from various sources. Somewhat surprising is that often the harshest criticisms of DT creation are not exclusively by Biblical Creationist advocates but by many secular critics of these attempts. These secular critics want nothing to do with these DT efforts, which at its core is intended to blend the naturalistic origin views from secular science in some way with the Christian faith. As a consequence, the reactions to this by these critics is to recognize the logical incongruity inherent within these attempts to accommodate the language of Scripture into the beliefs of secular science. Many of these critics have typically cited and actively discounted these efforts, which engage in a forced compatibility to secular views by these various attempts. Yet the pursuit of DT for the Genesis 1 to 11 account, and within Genesis 1 specifically, continues for many within Christian Academia and the Church. This paper will address this concept and the underlying conflict, which has resulted.
Holding to the belief that God acted in a miraculous way to create the universe and all it contains should be the first of several foundational perspectives within the Biblical Creation worldview. This miraculous view of God’s work in Creation, which centers around both His character and His attributes and how He would only act in accordance with them, must be consistent both with who He is and how He has clearly revealed these truths to us (in Scripture).
What IS NOT the Objective of this Paper
The common way for defending the BC view of Origins, especially from a theological perspective, will normally proceed via one of two approaches, or by combining both, when applied to Genesis 1.
The most common approach (#1) is to focus on the intended meaning for the word “day” (yom) in Genesis 1. This would involve demonstrating the usage of yom, within the context of Genesis 1, to convey the truth concept that the specific use of yom expresses the fact of six 24-hour days during the creation week. Online resources in support of this understanding are found in the Footnotes section1.
The second approach (#2) is to focus on a combination of linguistics and language structure, the genre of the text (historical narrative) and the verb usage and structure within the text2. This hermeneutical approach seeks to demonstrate the factual concept that the content of Genesis 1 to 11 is intended to convey a truthful account of both the historical content and a recent timeline for creation. This specific approach recognizes the complete Genesis 1 to 11 text as containing the written genre of historical narrative. Online resources addressing this are again found in the Footnotes section1.
These two combined approaches would thus afford a complete examination of the text within the standard method employed for understanding biblical interpretation of Scripture, which is labeled as the “Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic”. These types of studies have been published numerous times and the intent here is not to repeat them. However, during this current study these two approaches will be referred to as needed to highlight various related points made throughout this paper.
The author of this current paper accepts, in full measure, the factual substance and correctness of these two BC approaches for the Genesis 1 account.
What IS the Objective of this Paper
Instead of one or both of the above approaches, the current objective for this paper will be to take an uncommon course and seek to evaluate the origin content of Genesis 1 from a different aspect. This approach could be summarized as follows:
It is recognized that many within Christian academia believe that because of the multiple meanings (5) for the word day (yom), within its textual usage in the Hebrew Old Testament, this would provide sufficient allowance for the usage of yom in Genesis 1 to include the concept of “indeterminate long ages” or DT. While this is technically true as to the broader meaning for the word yom, the BC hermeneutical view is that the correct understanding for the defined context of the word yom in Genesis 1 would preclude this allowance for any undefined DT meaning for yom in Genesis 1.
Despite numerous attempts to establish the fact of this unjustified contextual usage, no amount of hermeneutical evidence presented by either of approaches #1 or #2 have been sufficient to persuade many who would hold to this DT view. Thus, the ongoing choice and decision to incorporate some form of DT meaning within these alternate understandings of Genesis 1 continues to be pursued.
Therefore, the approach for this paper will be to examine the viability of incorporating the DT concept into the account of Creation in Genesis 1, but with a significant twist.
The idea to be discussed in this paper (Parts 1, 2 and 3) will focus on the usage and availability of the multiple time words in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament.
This paper will then seek to determine if some of these words could have been used within the Genesis 1 account (or in the use of similar textual content) to clearly convey, without controversy, a message of DT for describing Creation. This would of course include any necessary adjustment to the associated and contextual wording of the text to provide this DT meaning.
If any to some of these TIME words are available to express DT, then the usage of these same words should be able to clearly express the direct, face value idea of DT for the creation account. Therefore, this textual process would provide a much clearer means to convey a DT outcome for the Creation. Further, if such words do exist and if they could be used to convey DT, as either a single word or within a larger constructed phrase for this purpose, then this would raise two questions and one statement to consider.
If God had DT words available to convey DT, and if DT was His intended message, then what reason did God have for not specifically using these available words to convey a clear message of DT in Genesis 1 of Creation (through Moses)?
If God had DT words available to convey DT, and if DT was His intended message, then was God being untruthful, or in fact dishonest, or at least misleading to the readers of His Word, when choosing to express DT while not actually using these available words in the Genesis 1 account?
If God had DT words available to convey this fact, but DT was not His intended message, then it would seem reasonable to conclude that God intended a clearly different message other than the understanding of DT for Creation. It would then seem clear that God intended Genesis 1 to describe six 24-hour days for the creation of all things.
My responses to these two questions and one statement will be given at the end of Part 3 of this paper.
Key Factors in Referencing Hebrew TIME Words, My Background and Prior Key Papers
Meaning of Words
For this particular study, the focus will be on the meaning of key words (Hebrew TIME words) and their application to the Genesis 1 account of creation. Specifically, this would apply to their use when expressing a DT creation account. While many words, such as the word day (yom) can have multiple meanings and thus a varied usage within a language, the purpose of any language is to communicate the correct meaning to be understood (i.e., the author’s intent). This is most often accomplished by utilizing a directed context for the usage and meaning of each word in the text. Thus, the accompanying words, which provide this directed context and intended meaning, are then used to complete the correct and defined communication.
By seeking to understand a word’s usage and meaning within the limiting parameters of context, this will lead to a full understanding for the effective meaning of the word or words used. Sections #1 and #2 in Part 1 of this paper will focus on key word meanings and the general concept of their usage.
God’s Character & His Capability to Communicate Truth
Most Christians fully accept the common view expressed within the Christian faith which articulates the doctrinal truth of God’s attributes as outlined in His Word to us (i.e., Scripture). Included in these attributes are the 3-omni’s of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. These attributes speak to the God of Scripture who is unlimited in His ability to act as He would choose. By this, He would pursue to accomplish any and all things which He desires. While this is fundamentally true about God’s unlimited ability to act, He would still act, and He must act, in accordance with His character.
Within the attribute of omniscience, God who is all-knowing would be able to know with certainty the full details of how and when for the completed creation. Included in this attribute is the complete ability to fully express and communicate clearly the factual truth of the same. Thus, it would seem quite clear and apparent from the doctrinal truth claims for the Inspiration of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) that the details provided within the Genesis 1 account would therefore be expressed with full clarity as to what has occurred and when the same did in fact occur. This doctrinal understanding is called the Perspicuity of Scripture.
As noted above, a key understanding of God’s attributes is His Personal character as expressed within Scripture. Key aspects of God’s character are foundational and expressed within His communicated traits such as righteousness, justice and faithfulness. These specific traits, plus others congruent with them, identify God as a personal being of the highest imaginable integrity and even more so.
A key attribute of His integrity would obviously include the fact that God would never lie nor mislead about the truth content of Scripture (Number 23:19, Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2). This truth about God would state that He would indeed choose to speak with full clarity (Perspicuity) about all biblical content, which ultimately originates with Him. This communication of His Word would directly convey a completely truthful revelation of its recorded content, i.e., the Creation in Genesis 1. Thus, God’s revelation in His Word would be written with the intention of being understood, especially when addressing any and all accounts of history, i.e., Genesis 1-11.
My Background & Transliterated Words
My educational background in science plus my career spent within a laboratory environment and in the ongoing practice of science would not directly prepare me to write a paper to discuss the usage of various Hebrew words. However, I have also spent many decades of personal Bible study in studying details of God’s Word. Much of this study has focused in large measure on numerous directed examinations which sought to better understand word usage and word meanings in Scripture. I believe that this combined background of science plus my study of Scripture has prepared me to utilize a logistical approach for this subject study of Hebrew TIME words. In doing this, I will directly rely on key Biblical resources from acknowledged experts within their respective field of theology to facilitate this process.
The key point here is than I will be utilizing available multiple study aids (concordances, lexicons, other expert writings, etc.) to best examine both Hebrew word usage and meaning. By proceeding in this way, my approach will apply a straight forward application for how these respective TIME words could convey their intended meaning within the Scripture passages to be evaluated. In addition, I will only use the transliterated5 spelling of the Hebrew words within the body of this paper to facilitate an easier understanding for the lay-reader.
Key Papers Referencing DT Words
From my research, there appears to be only a few limited examples of this specific approach mentioned within BC literature that I have been able to locate. These examples have provided some modest detail about the application of this basic idea. But in recognizing their direct contribution, they have given both insight and direction for this current paper. I will reference them as needed. The primary paper is by James Stambaugh3. A second paper is by Russell Grigg4. These papers are referenced in the footnotes and I highly recommend that these articles be read for further insight into this issue as they provide additional background on the theology of Creation. For any other papers which I have overlooked, I would apologize for not including any mention of them.
This paper is written in sections to build an understanding of how God could have provided an account of creation demonstrating a DT creation, if indeed God had chosen to do so. By utilizing this sequential approach, my purpose is to demonstrate how this specific concept of Creation would be both understood and provided in a written account. Sections #1 and #2 are located in Part 1 of this paper. Section #3 is in Part 2 and Section #4 is in Part 3. Each of these parts are written as separate documents.
Section 1 is a brief summary of available TIME words in the Hebrew Language by type, meaning and translation (from the James Stambaugh list3).
Section 2 is a focused selection of these available Hebrew TIME words from Section #1 where some of these words may contain a meaning of “undetermined length or an extended length of time” within the proper context. This section will include a more comprehensive definition (lexicon6, 7) and translation for usage by relying on recognized resources for theological study6, 7, 8.
Section 3 will examine key Scriptural uses of the selected Hebrew TIME words from Section #2. This study of usage will include both singular uses of the respective TIME words6 and contextual phrases6 of these same words included within Scripture. The intent here is to examine each word as to its correlation to convey either an extended time frame of indefinite time length or its use within a more limited and definite time frame, as each may occur.
Section 4 will examine some of the possible combinations and/or uses of the selected Hebrew TIME words previously examined in detail within Sections #1 to #3. The purpose of this section is to consider how God may have used these selected TIME words within contextual phrases, which could then clearly convey with full intent an indefinite and extended length of time (long ages) consistent with a DT creation. These phrasal combinations or constructs may or may not have a direct correlation to any other Old Testament usages. However, this application is being done to consider how this idea of DT could be clearly conveyed within a “Creation account” using the TIME word structure of the Hebrew language.
Section 1 – Available TIME Words in the Hebrew Language by Type, Meaning and Translation
This is an adapted quote from an article by James Stambaugh3:
“The vocabulary stock of biblical Hebrew words indicating ‘time’ is substantial. This includes a total of 13 words which could have been chosen, and 11 of these words refer to a long period of time. At this point it will be sufficient to mention the words which make up the stock and then select examples from that stock. This list is limited to words used in Scripture.” ... “One can conclude that the Hebrew language had a good supply of words for ‘time’ of either a long or short duration.”
The listed words below (10 of 11 other time words) include the text from the article. This text was changed to a bullet points list from a paragraph listing in the original article.
ad2 - is the word “forever”, and when it is used it occurs with prepositions
et - which means “time” in general
dor - signifies “generation”
moed - which is also used for a “season”
nesah - denotes “always”, “forever”
ôlam - is often translated as “perpetual”, “of old” or “forever”
orek - when used with yom is translated “length of days”
qedem - sometimes is translated “of old”
rega is translated by the English words “instantly” or “moment”
tamid - means “continually” or “forever”
zeman - denotes a “season” or “time”
yom – (defined below)
What seems apparent from this list of TIME words, as compiled by James Stambaugh, is that several of these words (underlined & bolded) would be capable of a defined meaning along with proper usage and as part of a grammatical construction to convey the concept of extended time. Thus, it would seem to be true that these words (7 of the 8, minus yom) directly meet the criteria from the first part of questions #1 and #2 (i.e., “If God had DT words available to convey DT…”). In Section #2 a more detailed understanding of the eight highlighted words (including yom) from Section #1 will be further examined.
In the James Stambaugh paper3, he continues to extend and develop the application of possible DT meaning by considering the use of yom (and yamin) in combination with some of these Hebrew TIME words. This consideration is found in the section of his paper labeled “III. Paradigmatic relations of yom and Parts 2 to 4”3. I would recommend reading this portion of the paper closely for this expanded content.
Section 2 – A Focused Selection of These Available Hebrew TIME Words from Section #1
The seven selected TIME words (plus yom) which may best express a DT concept were indicated above, both by bolded text and underlining in Section 1. These same words have more detailed information below and include an expanded definition and usage in English translations plus varied contextual usage, especially when expressed within the criteria of time. The underlining only, used within the individual word descriptions below, would indicate possible meaning and/or usage to allow for DT.
1. ad2 – is the word “forever”, and when it is used it occurs with prepositions
Lexicon meanings – forever, eternal, continual, everlasting, always, old, old ancient (context driven for meaning)
Can be used as a preposition, especially with other time words; usually used for the unforeseeable future
2. et – which means “time” in general
Lexicon meanings – forever, eternally, time, times, seasons (of various lengths)
When used in plural – denotes circumstances, courses of time, events
Word basically means time, but in context expresses many aspects of time and kinds of time, such as the occurrence of an event; can refer to a specific time; can refer to a duration of time
3. dor – signifies “generation”
Lexicon meanings – highest common usage is generation; also conveys cycle of lifetime, setting of life, posterity; to encircle or surround; always (as defined with context)
Can express – period of time, age, time, extended time; can mean indefinite or unending length of time (as defined with contextual words)
In combination (dor + dor) – age + age, period of time, generations long past (as defined with context words)
4. olam – is often translated as “perpetual”, “of old” or “forever”
Lexicon meanings – forever, everlasting, ancient, lasting; essentially means “most distant times” or “very long time”
Most occurrences – indefinite continuance into the future
Can express remote past depending on context & prepositional usage; 20 instances where it refers to the past, but rarely limitless past
Can refer to short periods
Commonly used in reference to God – His actions towards His people and about His character
5. orek – when used with yom is translated “length of days”; most common usage is to indicate distance
Lexicon meanings – to make long, live long; length, measuring something; (with context) – endless, forever
Can be used with “days” to mean a protracted length of time
Has a positive theological usage in context to promises of God
6. qedem – sometimes is translated “of old”
Lexicon meanings – ancient time, formerly, long ago, times of old
(Used to mean temporal-time as an adverb) – before, of old, the past, primitive times
Geographical usage – east (its most common use)
Context driven meaning – to express extended time
7. tamid – means “continually” or “forever”
Lexicon meanings – continually, perpetually, without interruption, remaining, constantly
The idea of continuity
8. yom – yom in singular, yamin in plural
Lexicon meanings (5 total):
A period of light in a day/night cycle;
A period of 24 hours;
A general or vague concept of time (plural as yamin);
A specific point of time (usually yamin, occasionally yom);
A period of a year (usually yamin, occasional yom)3
Example “ending time” – “long time past” (more defined time) – used as plural (yamin); in conjunction with indicated word – “ancient earth”, “of old” (w/ olam); “it was from days of old” (w/ )
Example “continuing time” – “long time past” (undefined time) – used as plural (yamin); in conjunction with indicated word – “perpetual days” (w/ le-olam yamin), “generation(s) of days” (w/ ); “forever days” (w/ ad yamin and/or olam yamin)
It would seem clear from this extended examination of these words in this section of the paper that the prior understanding from Section #1 has been both confirmed and enhanced by this expanded lexical evaluation. The first seven words here (minus yom), which can convey the concept of more extended time frames, all seem to demonstrate with a varying degree of meaning and application the intended concept of DT. This understanding would incorporate both indefinite time and more limited available time within their respective contextual usage. Thus, the common lexical use for each of these words could be utilized to encompass the broad outcome of a DT application for most of these words.
Conclusion to Part 1
The initial portion of this study on key TIME Words has provided strong evidence for the availability of the necessary words in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament to convey a meaning of DT, as needed. Thus, it would seem that the concept of a DT creation could have easily and clearly been expressed within the language of the creation account (Genesis 1) to provide this message as needed and if this was actually intended by the author.
The initial reaction to the three questions, posed in the Objective part of this paper (Part 1), would seem to initially challenge the idea of DT for the Creation account as was recorded within this Old Testament Scripture of Genesis 1. My initial findings have established that God could have easily used the language of DT to express “indefinite long ages” based on these available words as was demonstrated during the lexical examination completed in Part 1 of this paper. The alternative to this would have God misrepresenting the truth about the creation, either by directly withholding the language needed to express the concept of DT or by raising confusion within the selected wording He chose, which would in turn mislead the reader. Can you and I as believers really accept this concept about God?
Parts 2 and 3 of this paper will focus directly on the available language of DT and, as outlined in Part 1, by taking a more in-depth examination of word usage within several specific texts of God’s Word. In Section 3 (Part 2) this examination will focus on key passages (ESV9) which contain these words and which address time related issues – both as individual words and in phrases. In Section 4 (Part 3) a further examination will occur by utilizing some combined word phrases of these and related TIME words to express a direct and intentional emphasis on the idea of DT. This type of construction would utilize selected grammatical components, such as prepositions and conjunctions, which can then be combined with a congruent mix of other key descriptive words from this same list to build an understanding of DT.
From this entire study of Sections 1 to 4 the expectation is that we will clearly see what God’s intended purpose was to convey a meaning for Genesis 1, which factually expresses a recent time frame for Creation and a timeline of only a few thousand (~6000) years since the first act of Creation in Genesis 1:1.
1 Recommended websites for more Biblical Creation information:
1. Institute for Creation Research
2. Answers in Genesis
3. Creation Ministries International
Doing a simple word (yom or day) or phrase search (meaning of day) in these recommended websites will provide numerous paper choices to examine. Doing a simple phrase search (genre of Genesis, long age, deep time, compromise old earth) in these recommended websites will also provide numerous paper choices to examine about the general meaning of time within the creation account.
2 Statistical breakdown for the genre of Genesis: http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/technical/Statistical-Determination-of-Genre-in-Biblical-Hebrew.pdf and https://www.icr.org/article/biblical-hebrew-creation-account-new-numbers-tell-
3 Article by James Stambaugh: https://creation.com/the-days-of-creation-a-semantic-approach
4 Article by Russell Grigg: https://creation.com/how-long-were-the-days-of-genesis-1
5 The spelling used for referenced Hebrew words in the paper will include the transliterated English spelling.
6 Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible – English Standard Version (ESV); Copyright © 2013; Dr. Spiros Zodhiates and Dr. Warren Patrick Baker D.R.E; AMG International, Inc.; Nashville, TN. This Bible provides a complete list of Hebrew (Old Testament Definitions) and Greek (New Testament Definitions) words with key words for each further highlighted by including more in-depth usage and information content about the word and its meaning. Word number designations are Strong’s number based.
7 Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible – New International Version (NIV); Copyright © 1996; Dr. Spiros Zodhiates; AMG International, Inc.; Nashville, TN. This Bible provides a complete list of Hebrew (Old Testament Lexical Aids) and Greek (New Testament Lexical Aids) words with key words for each further highlighted by including more in-depth usage and information content about the word and its meaning. Word number designations are Kohlenberger number based.
8 The NIV Exhaustive Concordance; authors Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger III; Copyright © 1990 by The Zondervan Corporation; Grand Rapids, MI. I found this concordance to be the most user friendly of all exhaustive concordances or concordances readily available. It was developed for the NIV version and it uses its own unique numbering system for Hebrew and Greek Words. This numbering provides direct cross-references to Strong’s numbers, which all other versions utilize. It also contains within the number system the indicated Hebrew and Greek word usage for each listed passage plus the translated word usage for each word occurrence. For Scripture references, it contains a complete listing of the word translation content for each Hebrew and Greek word usage (minus some articles, prepositions and other minor words in Hebrew and Greek).
9 A number of online sources for Scripture exist for use. The source I used is Bible Gateway Classic, English Standard Version (ESV), Copyright © 2008, Crossway, Good News Publishers.
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