Letters to the Editor

Editors, TORCH AND TRUMPET Grand Rapids, Michigan

Dear Brethren:

A hearty “thank you” to Dr. Maatman for his excellent article in the February issue of TORCH AND TRUMPET, “Can the Bible Contain Scientific Facts?” His development of the absence of any peripheral matters in the Bible is very helpful.

There is however, one statement which does not, it seems to this housewife, support the general weight of the rest of his article. That is the assertion that Dr. Maatman, having compared Scripture with Scripture, has concluded that “days” in Genesis 1 were long periods of time. Is this not also an example of the “human” fallible judgment which he disparages in the rest of the article? Abundant Biblical evidence should accompany the making of such a judgment because the obvious meaning of the fourth commandment “For in six days God created the heavens and the earth” and a text such as “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and the host of them by the breath of His mouth” and other similar passages would indicate clearly to the common people for which this Bible was written, that creation was instantaneous and its products were mature with the appearance of age. We do acknowledge creation as a miracle, do we not? This is a presupposition that the secular scientist does not take with him into his lab when he attempts to establish the fact of a very, very old earth.

The New Testament accounts of the creative miracles of Jesus shed light upon the character of creation as it came forth from the hand of the Creator. The wine which was created at the wedding in Cana, and the fishes and bread which were created at the feeding of the thousands, were also created with the appearance of age.

To assert that “days” in Genesis 1 do not mean “days” in the normal sense of the term, even with the qualifications that the Lord himself gives when he specifies that it was “evening and morning” the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth day, we must have incontrovertible, Biblical proof, do we not, lest we cause any of God’s “little ones” to stumble? If these “little ones” cannot believe the days were normal days, there is a real possibility they will not believe it was a real snake that came to Eve in the garden, that perhaps Genesis 1–11 are not historical after all but simply symbolical. And perhaps, even the miracles of the New Testament, and the Virgin Birth itself is only symbolical in character. If we as Reformed Christians are going to insist on the historicity of Genesis 1–11, then we are going to have a difficult time maintaining that “days” in Genesis 1 are long periods of time (Bavinck’s explanation notwithstanding).

Permit me too, to thank Dr. Maatman for the challenge which he throws out in his concluding paragraph. It is high time that we accept the fact that the Bible denies evolutionary theory (for that is all it is) and get on with a Christian answer to the scientific problems of today in the field of genetics and other areas. We shall look forward with interest to what Dr. Maatman as a Christian and scientist will have to say to us on these matters in the future.


Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa 51250

(In response to the letter of Mrs. Lauric Vanden Heuvel)


Dear Mrs. Vanden Heuvel:

You and I agree on the basic issue. That is, we believe that the Bible can teach us something meaningful concerning our modern scientific work. Furthermore, we both believe that the Bible does indeed teach us some crucial scientific facts. We both believe that the matter of Biblical authority is extremely important.

You suggested that I might have said more in my article concerning the length of the creation days. You felt that it was not enough for me to give simply my conclusion. There just was not ·the space to develop this matter. I do, however, discuss this subject, and also evolution, in some detail in another place. (This discussion appears in a book, to be published by the Reformed Fellowship, in which I attempt to put the questions of the age of the earth and evolution in the larger context of the attitude the Christian should have towards natural science.) I think that I ought to explain some of the reasoning behind my “day” conclusion here. Many questions are continually being asked about the length of the creation days, and therefore I shall take the liberty to bring up a few matters not discussed in your letter. Even so, many matters of obvious interest must be left out.

What little I did say concerning evolution and the length of creation days, I said for a very definite purpose. Some people who accept general evolutionary theory claim that the Bible does not contradict this theory. They say that the”scientific” in the Bible is actually peripheral, and not for our scientific instruction. I wanted to show that they are wrong by showing that the Bible cannot contain peripheral matter. I believe that their basic error is their willingness to impose their own ideas on the Bible. You will be surprised to learn, I am sure, that I fear that those who insist on creation days of 24 hours are also guilty of imposing their own ideas on the Bible. I say this because I think that the Bible itself suggests, or at least leaves open the possibility, that the creation days were long periods. I think that one might make this conclusion if he compares Scripture with Scripture. Some examples of this comparison will indicate what I mean.

The Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1 is yom. If we note the uses of yom in other parts of the Bible (i.e.; comparing Scripture with Scripture) we note that it can mean a day of 24 hours, but that it can also mean a long period. It can even refer to an eternal period, as in “This day have I begotten thee” (Ps. 2:7). In many places yom refers to an indefinite and long period when it means the day of the Lord, or the day of judgment. In general, when time is associated with a long-period work of the Lord, the Bible uses yom for that period. If we do not wish to commit ourselves on the meaning of yom in Genesis 1 until we study its use in other parts of the Bible, we will probably conclude after such a study that the creation days were indefinite, long periods.

Furthermore, it seems that we have a hopeless difficulty if we maintain that all seven days of the creation week were as short as 24 hours. The seventh day, a clay of God’s rest, is defined (Gen. 2:2–3) as a cessation from creation. The Bible indicates that this seventh day, this rest, this cessation, continues until now. It seems that God tells us that he worked for six of his days and rested on his seventh day. If the seventh day is long, is it not likely that the others were also long? When we are told in the Law that God worked six days and rested the seventh, we miss (it seems to me) the point if we think that man’s days of work and rest are like God’s days of work and rest. Man’s time, his day, is puny compared with God’s time, or his day. Man was created in the image of God, but that does not mean that he is God. Man’s habitation, work, rest, and time are infinitely small compared to God’s habitation (if we can speak of such), work, rest, and time.

Since the length of God’s days is not the length of man’s days, it is not surprising that God’s six-one work-rest pattern is the pattern for man not only in terms of days, but also (as in Levitical law) in terms of years (six years of work and one year of rest) and longer periods. Here also it is comparing Scripture with Scripture which is helpful.

I agree with you when you say that the Bible’s message is for the common people. But is it not necessary for the common people to compare Scripture with Scripture? I believe that that is just what the Bereans did as they searched the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). For example, is the “evening” of Genesis 1 of necessity associated with days of 24 hours? In Zechariah 14:7 “evening” (given by the same Hebrew word as that used in Genesis 1) is associated with a day which obviously is not a day of 24 hours. Apparently “evening” (and, by implication, “morning”) in Genesis 1 does not necessarily indicate that the creation days were days of 24 hours. (Sometimes it is objected that numbered days in the Bible, such as those given in Genesis I, are always days of 24 hours. But long-period days outside of Genesis 1 are never in groups, where chronological numbering is required. The chronological days of Genesis 1, whether short or long, require numbering.)

You suggest that the Bible indicates that the creation days were short when it says, for example, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” First, it does not seem that instantaneous creation and days of long periods are mutually exclusive concepts. Long periods of time could have elapsed between the various creative acts. Second, acts of the Lord which do consume time are also performed “by the word of the Lord” and “by the breath of his mouth.” I agree that some acts, such as making wine from water, are miraculous mostly because they were completed in a short period of time. But in other instances the essence of the miracle called for slowness, not rapidity. For example, we probably agree that it was necessary for nine months to elapse between the time of Jesus’ conception and his birth. Was not his conception, growth, and birth a tremendous miracle? Can we say a priori that the creation of the universe had to be a fast process, or that it had to be a slow process? I doubt it.

Is it necessary to give so much attention to the question of creation days? I think that it is because a failure to do so almost always means that we improperly accept one of two ideas. We might accept a creation day of 24 hours after a too-superficial examination of the Biblical data. Or, we might believe that the Bible teaches short creation days and a young earth, but that the earth is actually very old because certain scientists say it is. With this view, we would be ascribing error to the Bible. Both of these views do great injustice to the Bible, and are therefore worth refuting.

Again, I am very happy that we agree on the basic matters concerning the nature of the Bible. I hope that my remarks have done something to explain the very brief comment I made in the earlier article.