The question was presented: How could the earth be made in seven literal days, since without the earth, there would have been no days? The argument seems to be that if there is no earth, then there could have been no days in which the earth was created.
Actually, the scriptures no where state that the planet earth was created in seven days, but rather that the heavens and the earth were created in six days, and on the seventh, Yahweh rested from creation. — Genesis 1:1-2:2; Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17.
How could the heavens and earth be created in “six days,” if there were no “days” until the earth was created? To understand this, we need to realize that in the Bible, as in well as in our common speech today, “earth” does not always mean the planet, and “day” does not always mean 24 hours.
In the first chapter of Genesis, for instance, “earth” is used in at least two different ways, as the earth — the planet — that was without form and void, and also as regarding the dry land. — Genesis 1:9,10.
Likewise, heavens is used to refer to that is spoken of in Genesis 1:7-10 is referring to the atmosphere, the air and that which is above the earth that is formed as result of the separating of the waters below and the waters below.
Furthermore, the word “day” is used in at least three different ways, related to at least three different periods of time, in the first two chapters of Genesis. We first have each of six days referred to as being and evening and a morning. (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31) Then we have the “day” that is referred to as “light.” (Genesis 1:5) We also have the additionally single “day” in which the heavens and the earth were created, which single “day” includes the six days mentioned before. — Genesis 2:4.
And we have the “days” mentioned in Genesis 1:14, as well as the “day” that is mentioned in the same verse and also in Genesis 1:15. The “days” in Genesis 1:14 are evidently referring to the 24-hour “days”, while the “day” is referring to the period of time that the 24-hour “day’ has “light.” This is averaged to be 12 hours. (John 11:29) Thus in Genesis 1:14,15 we have two different periods of time, both of which are called “day.”
Thus we conclude, based on the scriptures, that the “earth” spoken of as being created in Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; and Exodus 31:17, was created in six literal “days” — six periods of time, as the scriptures state. We do not conclude, however, that those “six days” were days of 24 hours, nor do we accept the idea that the “earth” spoken of as being created in Genesis 1:1 refers to the planet itself.
The Bible gives us no indication of as to when the planet was created, but in Genesis 1:2, it simply reads when those six days began, that the planet earth “was” void and without form.
The “earth” that was created in those six days, pertains to the land mass and the arrangement of things upon the land mass, and in the seas as related to the land mass, as stated in Genesis 1:9-13, as well as the rest of Genesis 1.
Likewise, the “heavens” spoken of in Genesis 1:1 pertains, not to the creating of the galaxies, stars, planetary systems, etc., but rather of the sky and things in the sky, the flying creatures, as well as pertaining the what was being allowed to be seen in the sky, as though from the surface of the earth, that is, the making to appear of the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. This refers to the luminaries as they appeared in the sky — the heavens, not to the creation of the physical sun, moon, and stars.
It is these heavens and earth that are being spoken of as being made in one day, as well as six days. — Genesis 2:4; Exodus 20:11; and Exodus 31:17.
However, neither the one “day” of Genesis 2:4, nor each of the six days do we believe to constitute days of 24 hours each, nor do we believe that the Bible ever gives any indication of how long before the beginning spoken of in Genesis 1:1 that the physical universe was created, or when the planet earth itself was made.
Each of six days could have thousands, millions or even billions of years as we now count time. Likewise, the planet earth could been brought into existence thousands, millions, billions, or even trillions of years (according to the way we now count time) before the “beginning” that is spoken of in Genesis 1:1.
Thus, seen, the six days of creation, although they are literal “days”, in that they are literal periods of time, are not the same as the 24-hour days (Genesis 1:14), nor the averaged “twelve hours” of daylight (John 11:29), that are related to the planet earth’s revolving on its axis.
Original published on or before January 16, 2009; Updated: March 15, 2014.