"And the evening and the morning were the ____ day."
Needless to say much has been written on the subject of the creation days of Genesis. The poetic simplicity of Genesis 1 leaves much to the imagination. Can these days of the creation be different than a literal 24 hour day? First consider Psalms 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 that follow which indicate that time to the Lord is very different than time is to man.
"For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday"
when it is past, and as a watch in the night."
"... that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day."
Some have taken the two passages above to mean that one day is exactly one thousand years, but it is not a mathematical formula since 1000 years is compared to both yesterday (24 hours) and a 3 hour watch in the night. It appears more likely that they mean that the Lord exists completely outside of our time domain and can look upon all of our life's history at one time simultaneously, as he wishes. He obviously created the universe with our beautiful planet and all its wonderful living things as He wished and on His own time basis.
Let us take a closer look at how the key Hebrew words of concern can be translated since often each Hebrew word has many uses depending upon the context. We will look at selected extractions of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green, with selected portions placed in red boxes for emphasis.
We start with the Strong's Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary extract for 3117 "yowm", Fig. 1 below.
Note that there can be two uses of the word, as a literal day, or as a figurative day for a period of time to be defined by associated words.
Also we will look at the "Lexical Aids for the Old Testament" edited by Spiros Zodhiates for yowm in Fig. 2 below.
Fig2Note that this author expands on Strong's comments and repeatedly emphasizes that yowm can be a period of time. We look at some of the places early in the Old Testament at which yowm has been translated as time in Fig 3 below. (Over 40 times depending upon the translation.)
As early as Genesis 2:4 we see yowm in the singular with an attached infinitive used to indicate an extended period of time. Strong's does not show this since the King James Versions retain the translation of day, but other translations recognize that in this case yowm refers to the time of the entire creation of the heavens and earth as recognized by the The Bible: An American Translation and others, "At the time when God made the earth and the heavens." See Fig 4 below (remember to read Hebrew from right to left).
How about evening ('ereb #6153) and morning (boqer #1242), can they be associated with a long time period? They appear in this order only a limited number of times in the Scriptures. In Genesis 1 of course, and a couple of times in connection with Aaron in the tabernacle from evening to morning (Exodus 17:21 and Leviticus 24:3), and once in Psalms (55:17; Evening, and morning, and at noon, ...), and twice in the eighth chapter of Daniel as shown in Fig. 5 below. (Remember to read the Hebrew from right to left.)
In this case evening and morning are associated with a "vision" that definitely covers many years. And the best literal translation would seem to be, "And the vision of the evening and the morning that was told, true it is.", even though some translations do us "evenings and mornings". The word evenings appears only once in the King James Version, and not from 'ereb, but from 'arabah (#6160) and the word mornings never occurs. And the above is the only other place that 'ereb and boqer occur in combination with yowm. Here is Young's Literal Translation;
8:26 "And the appearance of the evening and of the morning, that is told, is true; and thou, hide thou the vision, for it is after many days."
And also 'ereb and boqer appear in Daniel 8:14, but without yowm, and in this case the singular words are in connection with a very long time period per Young's Literal Translation;
8:14 "And he saith unto me, Till evening -- morning two thousand and three hundred, then is the holy place declared right."
And the Septuagint, an early translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek adds the word days.
"14 And he said to him, Evening and morning there shall be two thousand and four hundred days; and then the sanctuary shall be cleansed."
And in his commentary on the Book of Daniel by the early Church Father Jerome (347-420AD) also adds the word days.
"Until the evening and the morning, until two thousand three hundred days; and then the sanctuary shall be cleansed."
And below is a composite comparison of the Hebrew of Genesis 1:5, Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 8:26 utilizing the primary English meanings per James H. Strong for #6153 "dusk" (evening), #1242 "dawn" (morning) and #1961 "exist" (there was).
So as we see there are really no evidences else where in the Bible that 'ereb and boqer are "defining words" to yowm as many claim. Instead, it would appear most likely that they are descriptive terms concerning the creation process as described in the preceding verses. Now if one considers the probability that they are descriptive terms evening and morning can refer to the "beginning" with "darkness" and the "ending", with the "light" or a dramatic "dawning light" thus giving us the following.
"And the beginning and the ending were the ____ time."
"And the darkness and the light were the ____ time."
"And the darkness and the dawning light were the ____ time."
Thus the transfer from darkness to light adds the picture of an improvement or a progression in the state of the creation process with each time phase. There is also a figurative translation of boqer as "of bright joy after night of distress" per The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.
If we use the more basic meanings of the words per the figure above, where evening is called 'ereb because when the sun goes down, vision becomes blurry and disordered and with the break of day it clears. Thus we have;
And the mixing and the breaking forth were the ____ time.
Which has caused some to propose.
"And from chaos/disorder to order, the ____ time."
Therefore the reader can possibly chose from any of the above, which ever seems to connect with them the most. Referring back to Fig 1 from Strong's, you will note that "age" is also a valid translation for yowm, but the authors have used "time" or "phase" since these are our preference.
( To view 2 revised translations of chapter 1 and a paraphrase take a look at -[Chapter 1]- Use the browser "back" function to return to this page.)
Through out history there have always been a small minority of linguists who have maintained that Hebrew was the mother language from which all languages originated. Needless to say they have been ignored by the secular linguists and also most Christians. But there remains today a number of these linguists. One of them is Isaac E. Mozeson graduate from Yeshiva College. Fig 11 that follows is an extract from his book "The Word" published by Shapolsky Publishers in 1989.
While it is often difficult for the amateur to recognize the origin of English words from the Hebrew mother tongue because the two languages seem to be so different. However, the connection between aeon or eon and yom (Strong's yowm) is not so difficult to understand since the sounds are very similar. Therefore, the translation of yowm in the Genesis 1 passages to aeon is also a good choice. We did not use this choice in the body of our discussion since eon or aeon do not appear in the King James Versions and Strong's.