Saturday, February 10, 2018

All in a day's work

A stock objection to young-earth creationism is that too much is happening in Gen 2 to wedge into one day. Indeed, it describes daylight activities, so it has to be squeezed into about 12 hours, give or take, and that's unrealistic. 

I think some of the strain can be relieved by recognition that, contextually, Adam didn't name every kind of animal on earth, but only animals that frequented the garden. But there are additional issues.

One striking difference between Gen 1 and Gen 2-3 is that unlike Gen 1, with its 7-day framework, Gen 2-3 lack temporal markers. Considered on its own terms, there's no indication long it took for incidents described in Gen 2 to happen. It doesn't say one thing happened at a particular hour, or day later, week later, month later, year later. There's some chronological progression, but no indication how long a particular incident took, or how soon after one incident another incident occurred. If all we had to go by was Gen 2, there'd be no reason to assume it all happened on the same day. Like Jonah, the action in Gen 2-3 reflects narrative compression. 

So where does the pressure to wedge it into one day come from? Well, it comes from attempting to synchronize day 6 in Gen 1 with events in Gen 2. Since Gen 1 says mankind was made on day six, and Gen 2 recounts the creation of Adam and Eve, the assumption is that Gen 2 must be synchronized with day six in Gen 1–at least in regard to the origin of Adam and Eve. 

There may be an element of truth to that, but I think it's simplistic. To take a comparison, consider the "discrepancy" between Gen 6:19 & 7:2. Yet that's not a real contradiction. Rather, that's what Mark Futato dubs the synoptic/resumptive-expansive technique, where the narrator introduces a subject in general terms, then talks about something else, then circles back to that subject, but qualifies the original statement with additional information. Gen 7:2 is the definitive statement, not 6:19.  

With that compositional technique in view, while it's necessary to say that Adam was created on day six, I don't think it's necessary to confine all the activities in Gen 2 to day six. The creation of man would be initiated on day six, but needn't terminate on day six. 

The description of day six in Gen 1 is a general statement that can be further modified by Gen 2–just as Gen 7:2 modifies the scope of 6:19. Indeed, a basic function of Gen 2 is to supplement Gen 1 by providing more detailed information regarding the creation of mankind. As such, I think the synchrony can be limited to the terminus ad quo rather than the terminus ad quem. Although Gen 2 overlaps with day six of Gen 1, they needn't coincide. 

If we make that adjustment, then I think Gen 2 is consistent with young-earth creationism–although that adjustment is equally consistent with old-earth creationism. 

1 comment:

  1. The argument, at least as I've hear it, is also that Adam recognizes something is wrong/gets lonely/etc. That seems that it would take longer than a day. And then undergo a deep sleep, and the creation of Eve, etc.