What is the Day Age Theory?


The Day Age Theory (DAT) is an Old Age Creationism (OEC) theory of Creation (see below). It maintains that the six (6) days of Creation in Genesis 1 were not ordinary 24-hour Days, but much longer periods of time (from thousands to billions of years).

The key term in question is the Hebrew word yom, meaning "Day." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives various definitions of yom. It can denote: (1) the period of light (as contrasted with the period of darkness); (2) the period of twenty-four hours; (3) a general vague "time;" (4) a point of time; (5) a year (in the plural; I Sam. 27:7; Exod. 13:10, etc.). [1]

Since there are so many legitimate uses of the Hebrew word yom, how do we know which one, or ones, to apply to the Creation narrative? The answer is, "it depends upon the context."

So, let's examine some of the arguments:

(1) Day Six Activity: DAT's argue that there was too much activity on sixth Day of Creation for this to have been an ordinary 24-hour Day, such as: (a) naming all the animals (Gen. 2:19) and (b) having slept for a while (Gen. 2:21-22). However, this is "an assumption" being placed upon and read into the text itself. Adam was created "very good" (Gen. 1:31). His brain had to have been very developed just so he could have named the animals in the first place (maybe we should be discussing that Adam had a 1000 I.Q., and not 1000 Days). DAT's logic limits the eternal God and the unfallen Adam to being only able to do what fallen men can do in time! This entails denying a miracle in Genesis 2 and thus, Genesis 1 as well.

(2) Yom in Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8: From these passages DAT argues that the Days in Genesis 1 are longer periods of time than 24-hours each. However:

(a) Genesis 1 lacks a comparative particle - "like" or "as," (implied in Psa. 90:4 and literally stated - twice - by Peter in 2 Pet. 3:8) - and therefore these passages differ in their use of the word yom, in Genesis 1.

(b) In context, 2 Peter 3:3-10, is referring to the return of Christ and not the Creation account of Genesis 1. For Peter's original audience the time of waiting for Christ to return seemed rather long; so long that some found themselves tempted doubt the Second Coming. However, from God's perspective, not only is the Second Coming right on time, it is short as compared to all eternity.

(c) Suppose we accept that the word yom in Genesis 1 refers to 1000s or billions of years.

i. How did plant life, created on the third Day, survive and germinate without sunlight, not created on the fourth Day, for 1000s of years? Though God is light (1 John 1:5), it is ludicrous to think he is photosynthesis sunlight. Of course, God could have done this through a miracle, but creating in six (6) literal Days is also a miracle. But, if one believes in miracles, why not then believe in miracle of a six (6) Day Creation (Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11)?

ii. Without the heat from the sun within a week the global surface temperature would drop below 0 degrees F and within a year below -100 degrees, but of course God could have worked another miracle, (see (1) above)

iii. And what about Adam's age? If 1000s of years existed between the sixth and seventh Days, then Adam would have been older than 930 years old at his death (Gen. 5:5).

Clearly, DAT's argument does not fit the remainder of the context of Genesis.

(3) Yom in Context: DAT asserts that "Day" means a long period of time. However, there are many reasons this does not make sense:

(a) The first use of yom (Gen. 1:4-5) literally refers to the daily light/dark cycle of Day and Night.

(b) The word "Day" appears with the defining phrase, "morning and evening," which with all the other limiting words and phrases in Genesis 1 seems to limit its usage to an ordinary Day.

(c) The inclusion of time-stamp numbers (the first day, the second day, etc.), which with all the other limiting words and phrases in Genesis 1 seems to limit its usage to an ordinary Day.

(d) The Hebrew word waw may mean numerous things depending upon context ("and," "but," "now," "then," etc.). What is called the "waw consecutive" is used throughout Genesis 1. This means that there is sequence of events. Beginning in Genesis 1:3 we observe waw connected to an imperfect verb and observe the same phase, "And God said" over and over again (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24). So, these events were genuine, occurring one right after the other - literal history!

(e) The word "Day" (Hebrew, yom) is used again in Exodus 20:8-11 referring to the Sabbath Day (cf. Gen. 1:31-2:3). In context, the Sabbath Day in Exodus can't mean 1000s, millions, or billions of years. Look at the Exodus 20:8-11 and how it compares to Genesis 1:31-2:3)

Gen. 1:31-2:3
Exod. 20:8-11
... So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exod. 20:8)
And God saw everything that he had made ... And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day ... Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them (Gen. 1:31-2:1) Six days you shall labor, and do all your work (Exod. 20:9)
... So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3) but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God ... (Exod. 20:10)
And God saw everything that he had made ... And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day ... Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of the ... And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Gen. 1:31-2:3) For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exod. 20:11)

(4) Yom in Genesis 2:4: DAT argues that Genesis 2:4 uses the word yom to mean more than a 24-hour Day; and since it refers to the entire first six Days of Creation, all six Days should be interpreted the same way. While this is indeed true that "Day" in Genesis 2:4 refers to all six Days of Creation, there are numerous problems with this DAT interpretation:

(a) Genesis 2:4 doesn't include the definite phrase, "evening and morning" (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Therefore, this is not an apple to apple comparison.

(b) Genesis 2:4 uses the Hebrew be-yo-wm, not the Hebrew yo-wm (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:3). Gen. 2:4 uses be-yo-wm, as it is an idiomatic phrase (a summarizing statement, as in Num. 7:10 and Num. 7:84) and not identical to the use of yo-wm in Gen. 1.

(c) In addition, Genesis 2:2-3 (Hebrew, yo-wm) refers to resting on the Sabbath Day (Exod. 20:11 - Hebrew, yo-wm). But if one applies the usage of be-yo-wm in Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 1:1-2:3, then it must also applied to the Sabbath Day. But be-yo-wm (Gen.2:4) does not equal yo-wm (Exod. 20:8-11).

(d) If we interpret the first six (6) Days of Creation, with the same number of Days that Genesis 2:4 is equal to, we are speaking of only 36 Days (6x6 = 36), not billions of years.

While I commend the DAT view for realizing that the earth has "some maturity," their methodology and theory of how the universe attained that age is in error.

How then do we account for the age of the universe? We may deduce from Scripture that God created "a mature universe; one with age." One where Adam: (1) understood instruction (Gen. 2:16-17); (2) could speak - as he names the animals (Gen. 2:19-20); and (3) was old enough to understand both the need for and to be given a wife (Gen. 2:18, 21-24) - he even marveled with words at his wife's Creation (Gen. 2:23). Adam was given instruction that he could eat of every tree of the Garden (Gen. 2:15-16) - except one (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). So, Adam had the ability to reason. Also, the "trees" in the Garden were ALREADY producing fruit! They were created mature. God created a mature universe.

So, when Adam was created, he was a mature adult; fully able to walk, talk, and care for the Garden (Gen 2:15), etc. When God created fruit trees, they were already bearing fruit. In each case, what God created was functionally complete right from the start - able to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. God's evaluation of his own work was that his completed creation was "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God observing what he created in days - not just the sun, moon, stars, trees, vegetation, animals and man himself, etc. - but their function and harmony with each part fulfilling the purpose for which it was created - was "very good."

Verily, God created the universe - Ex-Nilho (Heb. 11:3) and in doing so he created all of its processes to work in harmony with one another. For, the universe to have functioned in such harmony from the beginning reveals that it had to be created with "true maturity" - not just with an appearance of age, but with already complete operating system(s) (complicated complete systems operating within other complicated complete systems, etc.). So, we can affirm God created "a mature universe, one with age." So, in essence the earth can be both young and old at the same time. Please see, "What is the Mature Universe Theory?," below.

For further study please see, "What About Hebrews 11:3?" below.


[1] R Laird Harris (Author),‎ Gleason L Archer Jr., yom, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Moody, 2003).

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is Ex-Nihilo?
The Framework Theory
What is the Gap Theory?
What About Hebrews 11:3?
What is the Intelligent Design Theory?
What is the Mature Universe Theory?
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
What is Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Related Topics

What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?
Are there two different accounts of Creation?
What is BioLogos?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
A Universal or Regional Flood?
What about the evidence of Carbon-14 dating?
What About Dinosaurs?
Scientific Evidence for YEC?
How could there be evening and morning the first three days of Creation?
Extraterrestrials and the Bible?
What was the Scopes Monkey Trial?
Can a person be born an atheist?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).