Genesis 1 is one of the most difficult passages in all Scriptures to wrap our mind. It has been a spot of major contention not only among those who are Believers and not believers of the Scriptures but also among Believers themselves. Some Believers wrangle that the days are literal 7 days while other vehemently oppose to say that they are figurative days representing epochs of time upward to the millions of years. I see credence on both sides seeing that our modern day calendar is arranged based on 7-day weeks and has always been this way in ancient times including during the era of the old covenant or mosaic covenant. However, when looking at the earth from a scientific perspective, the earth and the cosmos/universe seems to yield an age, which surpasses merely tens of thousands of years. Who is right? Who is wrong? I would like to approach it from a different view, which may harmonize the two conflicting views as a pressing thought for consideration of the nature of our reality we have been given to exist.
I would like to suggest briefly that Genesis 1 is about the uncreated God (which is to say the God who already existed: the I am that I am) who working in uncreated space and time (which is to say and contrast space and time that existed within the life of God, the economic Trinity) in the Spirit to make created time and space as a temple to dwell with his humanity. At the end of his labor, God rested in his uncreated space of rest in the Spirit. This is to say that time and space is a reflection of God’s reality just as humans are a reflection/image of His glory. The idea of uncreated time and space comes from the fact that God is triune. Again, I use uncreated to differentiate or contrast with created only, which then I am not saying that uncreated time and space is intrinsic to the Ontological Trinity (God in being). More so, the term is to say that there is a solid reference point of time and space within the Economic Trinity (God in acting out of being) that God used dynamically to measure out time and space as its copy or likeness in our created reality.
In John 17:20-26, Jesus mentions about the perichoresis that mutual indwelling. This reality will suggest that there is a kind of space, which is more profound and absolute to created space; and a kind of time, which is profound and absolute to created time. I define space as a place to exist or be. I define time as a measurement of change. If God was not triune but monistic and static, there would be no mutual indwelling to create that kind of space and time. However, since God is triune and dynamic, this is possible by the Spirit who provides the space and time for the Father and Son to be (space) in each other and move (time) in each other (and the Spirit the same).
Since in 2 Corinthians 13:14 the Spirit provides fellowship to the Father and the Son, the Spirit himself is the Father and the Son’s space and time. We know that the Spirit means wind, which means energy and motion. When you have motion, you have change. When you have change, you have time. The Spirit is always moving and bringing a fresh “future” for the Father and the Son. As Torrance puts it in his Mediation of Christ, the “I am that I am” can also mean the “I will be that I will be”, which is future.
We also know that the Father does everything in the Spirit, because Jesus did everything in the Spirit who does everything like the Father. The Father moves in the Spirit, which we see in Genesis 1 the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. The Father/Elohim moves and creates in the Spirit.
The word “beginning” is reshith in the Hebrew, which means chief, head, source or first fruits. Interesting! We can rephrase “in the beginning” as possibly as “in the first fruits of time and space”. We can see how the Genesis 1 account could be God working in the Spirit, within the first fruits of time and space. God measures out 7 days within that realm of ground and depth in the Spirit by calling out the uncreated light to interpose with the “night”.
Saying all of that, I would therefore put forward the Genesis 1 account as God’s history in poetic form. In other words, it is a genre of its own that spans both sides: prose and poetry, which supersedes our conceptual categories. Moses or the writer’s account seems to blend both history from God/Elohim’s perspective more theo-centric with poetry as mnemonic for an oral culture during ancient times. This is compared or contrasted to Genesis 2 where the creation story is from Adam’s perspective, anthro-centric.
I cannot deny the poetic form as it is structured in the original Hebrew for Genesis 1; but God seemed to refer to the Genesis 1 days quite often in the Exodus book and other books as some kind of literal time for Him beyond human reasoning/experience. I share Exodus 31:17 as an example: “It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” This was the Lord speaking to Moses saying to use Genesis 1 as the archetype for work and rest. I suppose it was an experience that God had undergone in His renovation of the Earth to make it as His temple (1). Otherwise, how else would God tell Israel that He worked 6 days and rested for 1 day and they, Israel, should do the same? If the Genesis 1 account was just poetry, how did God draw this logical parallel if it had no basis in reality – probably a more profound reality within God the Spirit? Even in the New Testament, the writer in Hebrews mentioned in 4:3b-4: “…although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
Therefore, I think the days in Genesis were experienced from God’s perspective, in eternity time, in the Spirit. The days were sequenced as He saw fit as the Lord God of time. Jesus re-emphasized this fact in the Gospel as being the Lord of the Sabbath. We as humans are made in His image-likeness and are called to mirror God’s work pattern.
But are God-days equivalent to human-days like human years versus dog years? I cannot say that is so, and it’s probably best not to be dogmatic on that part where many Fundamentals like to plant their flag on the literalness of 6 human-day creation. I believe that’s why Peter wrote what he did about one day is thousand years and a thousand years are like a day to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8). We can’t be overly scientific on that point. The point is God created all things out of nothing and worked in sequence to build a temple where He can dwell.
All in all, Genesis 1 is such a profound mystery of divine history of the Economic God/Trinity that is beyond human history. Nevertheless, it is history that is more real than any other history we can ever imagine. Genesis 1 seems to be the Lord’s history of work/rest and not ours. I can only conclude to say that God within His own economic history is the archetype of space and time for the creation we live and move in. We therefore make a categorical mistake in these ways: when we apply God’s time literally to us in a qualitative fashion as to say God’s experience of time is the same as ours; or when we apply God’s time metaphorically to us in a quantitative fashion as to say God’s measurement/units of time is not the same as ours being 7 days.
(1) As for the Temple thought, Earth as God’s temple is the place where God would dwell. (N.T. Wright, leading New Testament scholar has more on this idea.) Not a temple made by Human hands like Solomon or Herod created and was destroyed or other pagan-religions would create as a way to penetrate the Heavens like the Tower of Babel, but the Earth is itself as the temple, which is epitomized or summed in the incarnation of Jesus as the very Holy of Holies of God and the place where God truly tabernacles with humanity as noted in John’s Gospel. (As Paul says to the Colossians in 2:9, Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.) When God finished his abode, His home, the Earth then He rested.
This is significant because of the Sabbath. Israel was taught to create temples for gods in Egypt with no rest. Now God was showing Israel and now us a way of working and resting in a memorable fashion through poetry. Revelation 21 and 22 re-emphasizes this idea of the Earth of being God’s temple. Of course, the work of the cross is Jesus resting from building the human temple of God when He ascended to the Father. We now can enter God’s eternal rest through Jesus’ humanity and look forward a renewed Earth to match.