Q&A: The Framework Theory

The Framework Theory

Question

Dr. Nally, I see that you studied at Reformed Theological Seminary. Do you agree with some of your professors there (Futato/Waltke) that the Framework Theory is the biblical view of how Genesis 1 should be read?

Answer

Both Dr. Mark Futato and Dr. Bruce Waltke taught Hebrew while I attended RTS. Both are advocates of the Framework Theory. However, while I learned a great deal from them regarding the Hebrew language, I didn’t agree with them on all their theology. I studied their arguments (and Kline’s) regarding the Framework Theory and was unconvinced then and remain so to this day.

Because the question connected me with these men and the Framework Theory, what I say here is my own personal opinion.

The Framework Theory (also called Framework Hypothesis or View) is one of many attempts to reinterpret Genesis 1:1-2:3 according to the ever-changing field of science over the unchanging Word of God. (Please see "What About Hebrews 11:3?" below.) I feel we don’t need the assistance of modern science to understand what the original actual audience understood in their day. Our science today didn’t even exist back then, so the original audience would have had no concept of it.

Against all these re-interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2, I am convinced the truth is that God created the earth "mature"—with age—in the week he created it and that this is what Scripture teaches. Please see "What is the Mature Universe Theory?" below. [1]

I'll list now a few questions contained in my many reasons to disagree with the Framework Theory of Creation.

Historical Narrative or Poetic Account?

Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a historical narrative. A major tenant of the Framework Theory is that Genesis 1 is meant to be read poetically instead of as a historical narrative. However, there are over 50 vav-consecutives (or waw-consecutives) in the Hebrew language of Genesis 1:1-2:3. This alone indicates this is historical and not poetic. [2] Of the over 100 references to Genesis 1-11 in the New Testament, not a single one gives an indication that the text should be read poetically. Indeed, Genesis 1 does not make use of Hebrew parallelism which is predominant in Hebrew poetry.

The Framework Theory presupposes that the days are not chronological. But the waters of day 1 (Gen. 1:2) must exist before they may be separated on day 2 (Gen. 1:6). Then on day 3, the dry land appears from these same waters (Gen. 1:9). So, days 1-3 reveal a very strong and needful chronology. But so do days 4-6. On day 4 the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:16) were placed in the heavens of day 2 (Gen. 1:7-8). The birds of day 5 flew "above the earth across the expanse of the heavens" (Gen. 1:20) of Day 2 (Gen. 1:7-8) and multiplied on the land of day 3 (Gen. 1:9). On day 6 man was created to rule over all of it (Gen. 1:26). There’s simply a chronological flow to all the days of creation.

Two Triads of Days?

The Framework Theory teaches a concept of two triads of days as an understanding of the Genesis 1-2:3 narrative. A chart similar to this one below was presented in our reading:

Day Creation Kingdoms Day Creature Kings
1 Light 4 Luminaires
2 Sky, Seas 5 Sea Creatures, Winged Creatures
3 Dry Land, Vegetation 6 Land Animals, Man

Essentially what is maintained is that day 1 and day 4 are the same day being viewed from different perspectives. So are days 2 and 5 and days 3 and 6. As Dr. Futato states, "Days 1 and 4 are two different perspectives on the same creative work." [3] [4] This is the presupposition that gets applied to the text.

At first glance, this seems to be rather poetic. However, there are some serious difficulties! For instance, water was created on day 1 and not on day 2; "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters... And there was evening and there was morning, the first day" (Gen. 1:2, 5). Since water was created prior to the creation of light on day 1 (Gen. 1:2, 3), one might ask if days 1 and 5 should be viewed as parallel (i.e. sea creatures) rather than days 1 and 4? Or perhaps day 1 is both day 4 and 5?

Nevertheless, and more importantly, how were the "luminaries" of day 4 placed in the "heavens" of day 2 if days 1 and 4 are just the same event being viewed from different perspectives? Would this mean that the sun, moon, and stars were created and placed before anything existed for them to be placed into (i.e., the heavens of day 2)? The chart and thus their presuppositions appear to be self-defeating.

And while animals were created by God on day 6, which aligns with the land formed on day 3, the animals don’t rule over it as "kings". God gave mankind dominion over them (Gen. 1:28) as well as everything else he created on day 5. Biblical creation just doesn’t logically fit into the Framework Hypothesis.

The two triads of days fail to properly organize and analyze Genesis 1:1-2:3 and, in my opinion, presents a false presupposition.

Unending Seventh Day?

Genesis 2:1-3 doesn’t include the phrases, "there was evening" and "there was morning" which is included on every other day in the Genesis narrative (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) so Framework theorists maintain that every day in the narrative is but a poetic metaphor. But doesn’t this prove too much? If day 7 is eternal because it lacks the evening and morning phrase, then isn’t this an inadvertent admission that the first six days are normal 24-hour days?

The phrases "there was evening" and "there was morning" are used in the creation narrative for marking the ending and beginning of specific creation days. The Holy Spirit also uses the phrases "let it be" (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and "it was so" (Gen. 1:3, 7, 9, 11, 15, 21, 24) on each day—but not on the seventh! Why? Because God’s creation was concluded on day 6. Day 7 is a day of rest. So, the phrases "there was evening" and "there was morning" aren’t needed.

Hebrews 4:3-11 doesn’t assist the Framework argument. While it is absolutely true that the eternal rest promised to us in Hebrews 4 is an analogy based upon Genesis 1:1-2:3, the divine rest in Genesis is different than the Sabbath rest the writer of Hebrews refers to. We can’t experience the divine creative rest of Genesis as we aren’t God. Besides, Hebrews doesn’t say day 7 is still continuing. Rather it is saying that God’s rest is ongoing. There’s a difference in saying that God rested from his creative work on day 7 and saying the actual day is continuing. Just because I began writing this note on a Tuesday doesn’t mean that when I finished it on a Friday it was still Tuesday! For me, this doesn’t compute, so I must refute.

The Sabbath Day?

Speaking of the Sabbath day, the fourth commandment itself is a significant argument against any non-chronological categorization of the literal six days of Genesis 1. The command of Exodus 20:8-11 presupposes that the days of creation were 24 hours in length and literally actual days. If not, then how could God hold his creation responsible for a day of rest after six days of work if he himself hadn’t actually worked for six consecutive days? And according to the Framework view, we are only speaking of three days of work, not six (see the chart above). So, for me, Exodus 20:8-11 makes absolutely no sense using the Framework hermeneutic.

We are to remember God’s example in Genesis 1:1-2:3: six days of work and one day for rest. If you impose thousands of years on each day of creation, there wouldn’t be any time for a Sabbath day in our lifetime. Sadly, the goal of many in science today is to disprove God, his existence, his Word, his miracles, and thus the need for his worship. I know this isn’t the goal of my former professors. And while I still admire them and their scholarship in many areas, I respectfully maintain that they need to be more careful with what they teach and endorse (cf. Jam. 1:3)—as all of us should.

There are numerous other problems with the Framework Theory, such as the two-register cosmology. The reader can consult Herman Hanko’s "The Framework Hypothesis & Genesis 1," Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., "From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis and others for further understanding." [5]

Footnotes

[1] The Mature Universe Theory is commonly called the Apparent Age View (AAV). But that name is a misnomer in and of itself. It implies a deceptive view. It’s meant to poison the truth of the view so it won’t even be seriously considered. God tells us the age of the earth was mature in the Days he created it. He’s not being at all deceptive (cf. Num. 23:19).

For instance, gravity is the force by which planet earth draws objects toward its center. The force of gravity keeps us in orbit around the sun. But the sun and moon, etc., are needed for this. And they were created "very good" (Gen. 1:31) and fully formed and functioning when God created them. This reveals a mature universe.

The trees would have had mature fruit on them to nourish life. But what does it take to grow a piece of fruit? Complicated complete systems operating within other complicated complete systems had to be in operation from the very beginning. There is a children’s website "Wonderopolis" (https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-plants-make-fruits-and-vegetables) that explains this well:

Fruits contain seeds and develop from the ovaries of flowering plants. The first step in making fruits is pollination. Fruit trees and plants produce flowers. Then, bees, bats, birds, and even the wind spread pollen from one flower to another.

This sets off the second step, the process of fertilization, which results in a fertilized seed contained within the flower's ovary. Once this happens, the petals of the flower will fall away, leaving an immature fruit that begins to grow.

Inside the ovary, the seed produces hormones that cause the cells of the ovary wall to multiply, expand, and thicken. Over the growing season, the "mother" plant receives sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil to keep growing, helping the immature fruit to continue growing larger.

Eventually, the fruit will release a hormone called ethylene that signals the ripening process. Ethylene causes enzymes to be released that make the fruit change colors and become softer, sweeter, and delicious to eat!

All of this points towards the necessity of a mature universe. If not, then what did Adam and Eve eat until the fruit was ripe? God didn’t say, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden [when it gets ripe in a few months]" (Gen. 2:16). And we don’t observe Adam raising his hand and asking God, "What is fruit?," when he was commanded not to eat "of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" (Gen. 2:17). Adam could already see it and understood God’s command. The Garden of Eden—the earth—was created mature.

Adam and Eve were created mature as well. Adam could think (name the animals), understand God’s instructions, make judgments (not eat of certain fruit), talk, and even marry. Adam and Eve and the animals were created mature and fully functional so they could reproduce and be even commanded to do so. Therefore, this is a mature universe, not an apparent age universe.

[2] In addition, the normal order for a Hebrew narrative sentence is: Conjunction > Verb > Subject > Object. The order in poetic writing is: Subject > Verb > Object. So, Genesis according to its grammar is historical. The Genesius' Hebrew Grammar states:

The style of writing of Genesis 1 is historical, using the waw-consecutive to express consecutive action (waw = and). Biblical historians use this style to: "express actions, events, or states, which are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequence of actions, events, or states mentioned immediately before." … What this means for Genesis 1 is that God describes a sequence of events that occur one after the other throughout the creation week. We see this sequence reflected in the English as 'And God said,' 'And there was,' or 'And it was,' with which each verse in Genesis 1 begins. Each occurrence signifies that some action followed another in a real-time sequence.

Edward Young in his Studies in Genesis states:

Genesis one is not poetry or saga or myth, but straightforward, trustworthy history, and, inasmuch as it is a divine revelation, accurately records those matters of which it speaks. That Genesis one is historical may be seen from these considerations: (1) It sustains an intimate relationship with the remainder of the book. The remainder of the book (i.e., The Generations) presupposes the Creation Account, and the Creation Account prepares for what follows. The two portions of Genesis are integral parts of the book and complement one another. (2) The characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking. There are poetic accounts of the creation and these form a striking contrast to Genesis one.

[3] Dr. Mark Futato, Professor of Old Testament and Academic Dean Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL. "Because it Had Rained", Parts 1 and 2. (https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/mar_futato^TH.Futato.Rained.1.html/at/Because it Had Rained, part 1 of 2 and https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/mar_futato^TH.Futato.Rained.2.html/at/Because it Had Rained, part 2 of 2 ). Last Accessed 30 June 2021.

[4] Day 1 and day 4 may at first glance seem to pose a problem for the believer. On day 1 God created light, but it wasn’t until day 4 that he creates the luminaries (sun, moon, stars). However, while both refer to "light," the luminaries on day 4 presuppose the light on day 1, as the luminaries were created to "rule" or "govern" (Gen. 1:16) the day and the night of light of day 1.

Why did God do it this way? Why create light first and thereafter the luminaries? God’s ways aren’t necessarily our ways but they always have a purpose (Isa. 55:8-9).

First, it would take millions of years for some of those star’s light to reach the earth. In the northern hemisphere some enjoy Orion the Hunter (some 1600 light-years away) during the winter. During the summer, the stars of Scorpius, the Scorpion (7200 light-years away), wondrously dominate the sky. In spring we can observe the majesty of the sickle of Leo, the Lion (37 million light-years away). And in fall we may enjoy the magnificent Great Square of Pegasus (97 million light-years away). But as instantaneously and miraculously as Jesus’s first miracle of turning water into the best (aged!) wine (John 2:1-11), God created "mature" light from day 1 so that man might immediately have a concept of "signs and for seasons, and for days and years" (Gen. 1:14). And here we shouldn’t miss that we are speaking of Jesus’ "first" miracle and comparing it to his "first" day of creation.

Second, God is giving us a little hint of the future. It is interesting that in the new heavens and new earth that there isn’t any sun or moon (Isa. 60:19). God is the light in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 22:5). So, light can exist without luminaries. There’s the hint and the future reality. This earth will one day be drastically changed (2 Pet. 3:10). And from the very beginning, God knew the need for a new heavens and new earth for his elect to dwell in! So, God is telling us from day 1 that this present earth will only be for a brief time. There will be more to come — a place with no need of luminaries! "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Rom. 11:33-36).

[5] Herman Hanko. The Framework Hypothesis & Genesis 1. (http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_83.html). Last Accessed 30 June 2021.

Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., "From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis. (http://www.westminsterreformedchurch.org/ScienceMTS/Science.Pipa.Framework.Critique.htm). Last Accessed 30 June 2021.

John MacArthur. Creation: Believe It or Not. (https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj13a.pdf). Last Accessed 30 June 2021.

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is the Day Age Theory?
What is Ex-Nihilo?
The Framework 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).