Why Was YOM Not Translated As Epoch, Age, Or Eon?

I've been an Old Earth Creationist for about a year now. Old Earth Creationists are people who take the days in Genesis 1 to mean very long but finite periods of time instead of 6 consecutive 24 hours like our Young Earth Creationist counterparts (who don't seem to like us very much for some reason, given the hostility I've not only read about in literature like "A Matter Of Days" by Hugh Ross, but also hostility I've experienced myself). One thing I point out in defending my position is that the word in Genesis 1, in Hebrew, for the word day is "Yom". Yom has multiple literal definitions. One definition is a 24 hour day, another meaning is the 12 hour period of sunlight out of a 24 hour day, one mean a few hours, like from 12:00 to 3:00, and the other meaning is a long period of time. One thing that's always been on the back burner of my mind, is....if God meant for us to interpret YOM as a long period of time, why didn't the English translators translate YOM using one of our words which mean a long period of time, like for example; Epoch, Eon, Age, Period, Era, etc. (e.g "And there was evening and there was morning, the 4th Epoch", "And there was evening and there was morning, the 5th epoch" etc.) <-- By the way, I take "Evening and morning" to be metaphorical meaning "End point and beginning point". That is, that one creation epoch ended and the beginning of the next one came. 

Well, I went to a Christian Apologetics conference here recently and I was able to ask Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist and pastor, and one of the leading proponents of Old Earth Creationism today) this very same question. It was in the Q & A session.

"In Genesis 1, the word YOM is used and YOM can be used to describe a long period of time, but if that's the meaning of YOM we're supposed to take, then why didn't the English translators translate YOM into one of our words for a long period of time, such as 'age', 'epoch', 'eon' 'era' etc. I realize they only had one word to use, but we have many words to describe a long period of time."

Hugh Ross responds:
"Ok, I think you all heard his question. Now, I take the correct interpretation of yom in Genesis 1 is that God created in 6 long periods of time. Now the word Yom in Hebrew has multiple literal definitions. It can mean part of the daylight hours, like from 12:00 to 2:00pm, all of the daylight hours, it can mean a 24 hour period, or a long but finite period of time. But the question he's asking is if God intended for this to be intepreted as 6 long periods of time, why didn't the translators interpret it that way? Well, this is basically an English language controversy. This whole idea; is it young or old earth? I think the reason for that is, biblical Hebrew has an incredibly small vocabulary. 3,000 words if you don't count the proper names (names of cities and people). English, by contrast is the largest language ever developed. 4 million words and so in Englush, we have over a dozen words for a long period of time, but in Hebrew you've only got one; Yom. Now in modern Hebrew you've got Yom and Olam. But in biblical Hebrew, Olam could only be used for "Once Upon A Time", "A long time a ago", it could never be used for an epoch of time. So the only way Moses could communicate 6 long periods of time is to use the word "Yom". But then his question is, why don't the interpreters do that? 

Well, the interpreters, I mean translators, do appreciate that they are working with a tiny vocabulary language and forced to translate it into a large vocabulary language. So in order for them to be as non-committed to the text as possible, they purposely words of translation that leave it up to the human interpreter to do what the Hebrews had to do, which is basically look at this word "Yom", look at it in the context, contrast it with other biblical creation texts (like Psalm 104 and Job 38 and 39) and choose which of the 4 definitions to use.

Now notice that our English word "Day" can mean 24 hours, it can also mean the daylight hours, and it can mean a long period of time (like 'the DAY of President Regan, back in my grandpa's DAY, or the DAY of the dinosaurs) and that's why translators have chosen to interpret it as "day" as opposed to Epoch because it's the closest to the ambiguity in the original language where it has multiple definitions. Where if you were to translate it as Epoch, there's only one way to look at that, whereas the English word Day there are multiple ways to look at that and that's what we see in the text. Now, one reason why I take it to mean a long period of time is that it tells us in the text that there's no "Evening and Morning" for the 7th day, which means the 7th day is still going on. And notice that's the day when God rests and when I read that for the first time at age 17, it answered the fossil record enigma: How we see variations of speciation before human beings but virtually none afterwards. For 6 days God created and on the 7th day He rested."

I still wish they would have translated it as "Epoch" or "Eon" though. That way there'd be no dispute and I wouldn't be called a "heretic", "compromiser", or be accused of "doubting the word of God."  (-__-)

*Addendum: the author of this blog post has changed his views about the Genesis. While he remains an Old Earth Creationist, he has renounced concordism and the day-age interpretation. He is now considering either The Framework Hypothesis or The Functional Creation interpretation. This article is left up for research purposes.


  1. Well , Its a good idea you've got here , the part that says that the translators didn't want to be subjective, hence bringing possible errors (I'm implying that last thing I wrote "hence...")


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