What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” in Genesis? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In this series of posts, we are looking at the meaning of the Hebrew word yom as it is used in the first chapter of Genesis.  Does yom refer to a 24-hour day or to a long period of time?

Today we will review two more arguments that young earth creationists make and the responses to these arguments by old earth creationists.  Again, we will use material from Norman Geisler’s systematic theology, volume 2.

Young earth creationists argue that plants and animals must exist at the same time because they rely on each other for survival.

Plants were created on the third day (1:11–13), and animals were not created until later (1:20–23). There is a symbiotic relation between plants and animals, one depending on the other for its life. For example, plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, and animals do the reverse. Therefore, plants and animals must have been created closely together, not separated by long periods of time.

This is more of a scientific argument than a biblical argument, but it is still worth reviewing in this series.  How would old earth creationists respond to this argument?  Can plants live without animals for a long period of time?

Some plants and animals are interdependent, but not all. Genesis does not mention all the plants and animals, but only some. If the “days” are six successive periods, then those forms of plant and animal life that need each other could have been created together. In fact, the basic order of events is the order of dependence.  For instance, many plants and animals can exist without humans (and they were created first), but humans (who were created on the sixth day) cannot exist without certain plants and animals. . . . In any event, the argument from the symbiotic relation of plants and animals does not prove that the six “days” of Genesis 1 must be only 144 hours in duration.

Another common argument made by young earth creationists is that there was no death before Adam.  I, myself, have heard this argument many times used by friends of mine.  Here is how it works:

According to the old-earth position, there was death before Adam. Nevertheless, the Bible declares that death came only after Adam, as a result of his sin: “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12; cf. 8:20–22).

But does the Bible really say this?  I asked one commenter, who posted on our blog, this very question, but I never received a response.  Here is why:

There are several problems with this argument.
First, Romans 5:12 does not say all animals die because of Adam’s sin, but only that “all men” die as a consequence.
Second, Romans 8 does not say that animal death results from Adam’s sin, but only that the “creation was subjected to frustration” as a result of it (v. 20).
Third, if Adam ate anything—and he had to eat in order to live—then at least plants had to die before he sinned.
Fourth, and finally, the fossil evidence indicates animal death before human death, since people are found only on the top (later) strata while animals are found in lower (earlier) strata.

The Bible does not, in fact, say that there was no death before Adam’s sin.  This argument just does not work.

In our next post, we will look at the final two young earth arguments.

  • Very interesting and thoughtful article.

    Would be able to quote the animal-death-after-fall arguments and then show if they are false?

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Johnson,
    I’m not sure I understand the question. Could you say it in a different way?

  • Wes

    I believe that Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat animals before sin entered the world. Thus they would have caused no death for animals. After their sin, they cloth themselves with plants, but God makes them clothes from animal skins, presumably killing animals to do so. Later man is given permission to eat animals. I think these are some of the reasons some people say that animals may not have died before sin entered the world, in addition to the Romans 5 passage mentioned in the post.

  • Bill Pratt

    Maybe, but the fact that humans didn’t eat animals doesn’t mean that animals weren’t dying. It doesn’t follow, as I’m sure you would agree.

  • Wes

    Right. I was commenting on why some people believe that.

    I am curious why the Bible is written that way. It seems there are suggestions that maybe nothing died, but nothing concrete. On topics like this, I usually fall back on, “If God felt we needed all the details, He would have given them to us.”

  • Carol

    I came across this thread via the GeoChristian. You have done a nice job of laying out the YEC arguments and refutations.

    The issue of animal death before Adam sinned is, in my mind, one of the more difficult ones to deal with and one of the more important ones to wrestle with. It is also the point at which evolution issues intersect age of the earth issues. I appreciate that you have challenged the assumptions about what the Bible does and does not say rather than simply resorting to “the fossil record shows death before man came along. Q.E.D.”

    I found the June 2006 issue of “Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith,” a journal published by the American Scientific Affiliation, to be very helpful in shaping my thinking on the topic. Members of the ASA are all Christians in the sciences but hold varying views on age of the earth and evolution.



    P.S. I like the blog theme. It was my favorite when picking out a theme for my blog.

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks for the comment. I will check out the journal link.

    God bless,