The creation account found in Genesis chapter 1 of the Old Testament part of the Bible is an amazing picture of the beginnings of the universe. It is written as historical narrative as revealed from God to Moses, then Moses to us. As we build an approach to understanding this creation narrative, it is important to remember that God spoke/showed this account to Moses. It is not given to Moses (or us) by God “during the actual real time of creation”.
Also important to note is that we feel the literal interpretation of this passage is how it is best approached. It is historical narrative not poetry or analogy. By literal we mean “interpreted in context with proper grammatical and syntactual clues” for understanding.
Thus important features as prolegomena include: 1. The word “day” (hebrew yom) is used in 3 different ways in Genesis 1:1-2:4. In 1:5, day = “lumens of light”. In 1:5,8,13,14,16,19,23,31, day = 24 hour solar cycled day and in 2:4 day = “the period of creation”. These are the literal uses of “day” in this passage. Also notice that we have the mention of the 24 hour solar day before the creation of the sun and moon (1:5,8,13) and that 1:4-5 clearly makes a distinction between day as “lumens of light” and “evening and morning”.
We also want to emphasize that the 2 words used for create (hebrew barah and asah) imply creation ex nihilo and form/fashion. We do NOT feel the context allows for asah to be understood in this section of scripture as “do or reveal” (against Wiseman and Ramm and the pictorial/revelatory day theory).
Putting this all together, what do we feel is going on here? We feel that these passages DO support the 6 day creating/1 day resting view of Gods work of creation. We also feel that when God told this account to Moses, He used a 6 day showing/1 day resting pattern to Moses (thus the reason for evening and morning on the 3 days prior to creation of the sun and moon, similar to the idea of Moses being called up on to Mt. Sinai* to receive important laws and revelation from God, given to Moses over a period of time). The “work” of 2:2 is understood both as God’s recounting of His actual previous creative work as well as the work of telling the story to Moses.
When understood in this light, we see the creation story unfolded on Moses’ consecutive 7 day timeline not a geologic timeline. Because “there was evening and there was morning, one day” can refer to Moses’ receiving of the creation story on consecutive days, this allows for the 7 actual days of creation to be consecutive (or not), thus the actual creation days may or may not have been consecutive. And this “openness to consecutivity” is the point. God means to show us He is THE sovereign Creator, Who in 6 + 1 literal days created the earth as a marker for His Sovereignty and as a model for the Sabbath structure of Jewish religious life and this message is the truth principle that has and will stand as absolute throughout time. Science changes. What is considered cutting edge today as applied to the creation account will seem elementary 1000 years from now. But the truth of the reality of a sovereign God who creates and gives rest will stand forever. This narrative was never intended to validate (or not) the geological record. Young earth, old earth? Prayerfully decide but do not read it into this passage of scripture. Our exegesis of scripture is not dependent on the geological timeline as deduced by man. While all truth is God’s truth, faithful use of reason implies a reverent approach to the text as a starting point. Again I want to emphasize to both bible believers and skeptics that there is enough “vagueness” here to allow us to remove from an apologetic or as a contention point the issue of the geological record.
*Regarding Moses on Mt Sinai, this is recorded in the book of Exodus. In Exodus 19:1-24:11 Moses was at the base of Mt. Sinai for an indeterminate number of days receiving revelation regarding the 10 commandments and ordinances for the people. In Exodus 24:12-32:18 he was up on Mt Sinai for 40 days, for the first time receiving revelation from God regarding the tabernacle and related symbols for Israel’s religions life. In Exodus 34:1-28 he was up on Mt Sinai for another 40 days receiving revelation on the renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. Moses’ second revelatory encounter (the first 40 day period on Mt. Sinai) with God at/on Sinai is when (in my opinion only) God revealed the creation account to Moses on 6 + 1 consecutive days (nb Exodus 31:17). The actual 6 + 1 literal 24 hour days of God’s actual creating work may have been all in a row or “punctuated and placed” over a period of time greater than 6 days along God’s consecutive timeline.