יוֹם YOM A Study of the Hebrew Word Yom in the Creation Narrative (Genesis 1, 2) -- By: David G. Hansen
BSP 11:2 (Spring 1998) p. 35
A Study of the Hebrew Word Yom in the Creation Narrative (Genesis 1, 2)
Yom. It is such a little word. Yet, among Bible scholars it is a word that has resulted in much controversy. It is usually translated into English as “day.” Harper’s Bible Dictionary (1986: 1072) states the term “day” in the Hebrew Bible can either mean “the term between sunrise and sunset or from sunset to sunset (Gn 1:5).” However, the use of yom in Genesis 1:5, and the following creation narrative, has generated considerable debate. Gleason Archer (1994: 196) captures the essence of the argument in the following way:
From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author...this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.
Thus, the issue of the length and nature of the days of Genesis has occupied discussions of Biblical cosmology for many years. As Davis (1996; 51) writes, “to initiate the liveliest of debates one need only raise this issue, but far too often the discussion will produce more heat than light” [no pun intended, I think]. The reason the issue is so charged, Davis suggests, is because it has scientific, theological, and philosophical ramifications. In this article I will examine and comment on some of the arguments and then recommend some practical applications.
It might be helpful to begin the discussion with a quote of Genesis 1:5, the place where yom is used in the Hebrew Bible for the first time: “And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (NASB). “Day” in this verse is the translated Hebrew word, yom, and it can also be found in verses 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31, as they describe the days of creation. However, yom is used in at least four ways in the first two chapters of Genesis: the 12-hour period of daylight as opposed to night
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BSP 11:2 (Spring 1998) p. 36