[Originally published as the first part of Defending a Young Earth: A Response to Tyler Vela (Part 2). You can read the rest of the series by starting HERE]
In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young-age creationist arguments. Each main point will be the argument as stated in Tyler’s article. Below, I will post a direct quote (or quotes) that captures the thrust of his objection and my response below. I will make note of any time I quote Tyler directly within my response.
5. Moses bases the Sabbath as the 7th day on the 7 literal day structure of Genesis 1.
Vela: I would argue that Moses was the author of both Genesis and Exodus and so he would know what he meant in Genesis 1 and would mean the same in Exodus 20. This much, the YECs and I agree. The problem is that if that is the case then the verse no longer proves what they say it does. Since Exodus is reliant on Genesis 1 and its meaning, then whatever is meant in Genesis 1 would also be meant in Exodus 20…
We have further evidence that Moses did not mean literal days in Genesis 1 because if that were the case, then day 7 would be a literal solar day. This means God would have only rested from creation for 24 hours, which we know is not the biblical view…
This is further supported by the laws regarding Sabbath years and Sabbaths of Sabbaths (Jubilee years). They all follow the creation paradigm of 6 periods of labor followed by a period of rest but do not follow it in an exacting manner…
Considering that Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses and it is there that we read “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Moses is apparently very clear that a day is a flexible concept even to the point where 1000 years, a full day (yesterday) and a single watch of the night are all symbolically interchangeable.
This is a fun one because Tyler’s objections to this are quite interesting.
Summarized and paraphrased, they are as follows:
- Moses authored both books, therefore, the meaning is the same between Genesis and Exodus, whatever “day” is taken to mean.
- The seventh day is allegedly not a literal day, so days 1-6 aren’t necessarily either.
- The year of Jubilee does not follow the creation paradigm exactly.
- The word “day” is apparently interchangeable with “1000 years” as per the language in Psalm 90.
Tyler’s first objection sounds promising for anti-young-age believers, but it fails on two counts:
- First, in context, Exodus 20 opens with this statement: “And God spake all these words, saying,” (Exodus 20:1 KJV). We have more here than God’s usual order of verbal plenary inspiration — we have His actual words as He audibly spoke them to Moses. Yes, Moses is recording this incident. But he is specifically recording the actual words God said. As far as I am aware, this is pretty much uncontested by Old Testament scholarship. Interestingly, then, this actually serves to strengthen the argument toward the young age direction.
- Second, in Deuteronomy 10:1-4, we find God telling Moses that He Himself will write on the second pair of tablets “the words that were in the first tables.”1 Significantly, this suggests that God not only spoke the words in question but wrote them Himself.
If we operate on the standard assumption that God intends to communicate, and the best interpretation is the one the authors and original readers could have easily understood and shared, it makes absolutely zero sense that these days can represent anything other than ordinary, literal days.2
In his second objection, Tyler says, “We have further evidence that Moses did not mean literal days in Genesis 1 because if that were the case, then day 7 would be a literal solar day. This means God would have only rested from creation for 24 hours, which we know is not the biblical view.”
Tyler speaks awfully confidently about an issue there is much disagreement on. I think there is a strong biblical case to be made that day 7 is a literal solar day. For a more theological discussion (which deals with the references in John/Hebrews old-agers use to support their position that the seventh day is continual), see my article on the days of Genesis.
Here are just a few thoughts to chew on:
The argument usually goes that, since there is no evening/morning present on day 7, it must not be a solar day. The problem is that this is then extrapolated to allow for the possibility that the other days might not be literal! But no such suggestion is present in the text and in doing so you would have to flat-out ignore the contextual elements given for the other days.
Context still limits meaning.
Also, even though the cadence of “morning and evening” is not used directly in the text to signify the close of this day, the tense of the words in use seems to indicate finitude. The text states, “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3, emphasis mine). God’s actions within the seventh day seem to be portrayed in the perfect, or completed, form, and to reinterpret this passage based on a New Testament verse would seem to imply fallacious exegesis.
Further, as you’ll see if you read my article on the subject, taking day 7 as continual ignores lots of Scripture to the contrary and is certainly not what we “know” is “the biblical view.”
Finally, to give a common-sense illustration, what happens if you take a leave of absence from work? Likely, you’ll be resting for an indefinite period of time. Does that in any way suggest that the first day of your leave was not a literal, solar day? Did that day somehow extend throughout the entirety of your leave? Of course not. There was an actual day of rest, followed by an indefinite period of rest. It would be inaccurate to conflate the seventh day of creation with God’s creation rest. They are two related, but nevertheless distinct, things.
Therefore, this objection fails.
Thirdly, Tyler points to the Jubilee years. I’m going to agree with Tyler on this point, simply because I believe it’s irrelevant to the discussion. I’ve not personally seen an argument for literal days come from the Jubilee years. It follows the pattern of creation week, but that’s about all. It has nothing to say about its length.3
Fourth and finally, we have Psalm 90 to work with. Once again, context determines meaning. What is to be gleaned from a poetic passage that makes a declaration that 1000 years, a day, and a “watch in the night,” are symbolically interchangeable?
Tyler seems to want to glean from this that we can, therefore, reinterpret the word day to mean any of those things wherever we see fit! (Even if he doesn’t want to say this, what else could it possibly entail?) Clearly, this is fallacious reasoning and hermeneutics. There is never any argument as to the length of time Jonah spent in the whale! At best, Vela is grasping at straws with this suggestion.
The historical (and common sense) understanding of this passage is similar to what we learn from Peter,4 namely that God is outside of time and space! God is not bound by human constraints. In no way, shape, or form does Psalm 90 suggest we can reinterpret Genesis 1 symbolically.
Vela may want to argue that since Moses wrote both passages, this is a valid move. But by that logic, any time the word “day” is associated with Peter or his writings, we could make the same move since he made a very similar statement! Further, there is some contest about whether Psalm 90 actually boasts Mosaic authorship. I have no dog in that fight, but the possibility exists that this was not written by Moses at all and was actually penned during the Babylonian exile.
For the above reasons, I think creationists are quite justified in arguing that the Sabbath pattern is, in fact, based on the literal Genesis days.
- The breaking of the original tablets is referenced in Deuteronomy 9:17.
- In his response to last week’s post, Tyler notes that “this [the just-mentioned standard assumption] would simply be to beg the question of the plain and clear meaning of the passage. Myself and others have argued that this would be almost instantly recognizable to the ANE readers as a temple text. So what was plain to them is probably not what is “plain” to us reading it as scientifically minded moderns.” Although I am not well-versed on the idea of temple texts, all I am talking about here is the concept of a “day.” I find it hard to believe that when someone uses the term “day,” even in the ancient world, it is not clear that an ordinary solar day is being referenced. Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian sources all confirm that the concept of a “day” was well-established by that time. Nevertheless, this response is supposed to be in the context of old earth creationism (OEC) as mentioned in Tyler’s original article, the majority of which are concordists who argue that the “days” of Genesis are long periods of time (unlike Tyler). Therefore, I maintain the position that in the context of concordism, there is no question about what the ancient Israelites would have understood by the term “day.”
- I realize that the very fact that it has nothing to do with the length of creation week is probably germane to Tyler’s argument. But I fail to see how it is relevant. This follows the pattern, but that I am aware, God never connects it directly to the days of creation in the text, as was done with the workweek.
- “…that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).