Q: Were the ‘Days’ in Genesis One 24 hours long?
A: The Hebrew word used for ‘day’ in Genesis one does not necessarily indicate a 24 hour unit of time. It can also mean a larger indefinite span of time. Although most of the time in the scriptures according to the context it does stand for regular 24 hour days.
However, a number of ancient Rabbinical scholars on the Torah and Talmud taught that the ‘Days’ were indefinite time periods in Genesis one. Also, some early Christian Church fathers like Irenaeus, Origen, Basil, and Augustine believed and taught the same.
Today, there are two major approaches among Evangelical Christian Bible scholars—those who still believe in the authority of the Bible:
-a. One group contends that the word should be interpreted as regular 24 hour days. Most of this group also believes in the ‘Young earth’ theory—that the universe was created in 6 literal days and is really only about 6,000 years old. They use Bible chronology to come up with the current age. This group contends that God created everything instantly as it is and it only has the appearance of age—the old rocks were created instantly with the properties of old rocks.
-b. The second group believes that the Bible word doesn’t necessarily mean 24 hours. Most of these scholars hold to an ‘old earth’ paradigm that sees creation as much older. That whatever happened—God did it.
There are some ‘old earth’ folks who hold that there is a major time ‘gap’ between Gen. 1: 1 and 1:2 that could amount to billions of years. The text itself doesn’t really support or preclude this possibility.