According to biblical teaching, God directly brought into existence not the world per se, but an amorphous chaos of universal elements. But the almighty power of divine creation instilled into the essence of this chaos an immutable law of systematic development; thus, as soon as the chaos appeared, there sequentially began to be accomplished within it that which God said about it (Genesis 1, 2), i.e. in the necessary processes of its mechanical creation blind nature gradually began to carry out that which was pre-eternally comprised within the divine design for the world. Therefore, at each step of its sequential development nature invariably turned out to be worthy of its Creator, and God Himself invariably praised it as “good’; moreover, He enhanced its creative activity by creating the first people on earth. The biblical narrative tells us that man was created by God not through the mechanical forces of nature, but by a direct act of divine power, which formed man’s physical organism out of the earth and imparted to him a special soul in the image of God’s personal being, and so in this, too, was quite obviously realized God’s design, which served as the pre-eternal foundation for the existence of the world and in which is expressed the eternal purpose of this existence. The biblical narrative further assures us that in the initial period of its existence the world truly accorded with this purpose of creation.
The Bible definitely indicates that the creation of the world was achieved over the course of six days. But if these days bear any likeness to our days, then it is only in terms of the periodic alternation of evening and morning, and certainly not in terms of the duration of time from morning to evening, because the duration of our day is defined by the time it takes for the earth to make one revolution around its axis, while on the first day of creation, according to the Bible’s description of the process of universal creation, our earth did not yet exist. From the point of view of biblical cosmology, the primeval chaos at first undoubtedly organized itself into a dense indivisible mass and formed a single material body of matter, because the break-up of universal matter into a multitude of individual planetary worlds, by biblical indication, occurred only on the second day of creation, our earth was formed only on the third day, while the entire matter of our planetary world fashioned itself into a solar system only on the fourth day of creation, and thus only on this fourth day of creation was finally achieved the 24-hour alternation of our day and night. Thus the first days of creation could under no circumstance be like our days, and thus there is no doubt that they were days of a totally different kind. What kind of days were they?
On the basis of the universal laws of physics and mechanics, we can picture the initial process of universal creation as a complex process of the joining and the breakup of the chaotic mass in a continuous redistribution of matter and motion. Due to just the mutual attraction of the material elements of chaos, there inevitably had to occur within it a mechanical formation of stable masses of matter, and the greatest of these stable masses inevitably had to become the central point of universal gravitation. In other words, all dispersed elements of the chaos, as well as linked groups of these elements, inevitably had to fall upon this greatest mass and specifically upon the center of this mass, and thus out of their mobile totality there invariably had to emerge a spherical material body. However, it is obvious that a multitude of elements falling upon one and the same center and along one and the same straight line in reality cannot fall on one and the same point in space. Therefore, when the chaos became organized into a material body, its farthest elements had to be discarded, and thus their relation to the center of universal gravitation in reality had to be expressed in terms of repellence. Consequently, despite the cohesion of the primeval globe, by the law of centrifugal motion a powerful stream of matter had to be rushing towards its equator, and this powerful movement would have constituted a limitless source of the physical energy of light, even though our sun did not yet exist. In this case the single revolution of the universal globe around its axis naturally had to produce a change of evening and morning at its poles, and thus form a single day. But exactly how long was the duration of this firstday of creation we will never know of course, because we will never know the entire planetary world of the universe and, therefore, we will never be able to calculate the entire mass of matter in the universe. However, to provide some satisfaction to human scientific curiosity, we may at least illustrate the enormity of this issue through existing attempts to calculate the duration of the second day.
According to the biblical narrative, the universal globe in its universal unity had time to make only one revolution around its axis and to create only one day, and then the centrifugal force in the mobile masses of matter around the equatorial belt overcame the force of centripetal motion, so that on the second day of creation these masses were dispersed into space along the tangents of their movement, and in this manner a myriad of individual world bodies emerged, united among themselves, of course, by a single center of universal gravitation and invariably subordinate to the same law of physical evolution that had just been realized in the activity of the universal globe. On that same second day of creation the material mass of our solar system also emerged, but this mass existed in its complex enormity likewise only one day, because in the subsequent period of the third and fourth days it similarly broke up, in turn, into a system of individual bodies of our planetary world. This world is known to us to a certain extent, and we may propose certain scientific hypotheses concerning it. Knowing the mass of each individual planet of our solar system, and allowing the density of matter in the past to have been such that the mass of our entire system occupied a space equal to the current orbit of the Earth, astronomer Babinet calculated that in terms of the present measurement of time it took 3,181 years for this mass to make one complete revolution around its axis. Of course this calculation cannot in the least degree pretend to be an exact astronomical measurement of the actual duration of the second day of creation, but as a conditional hypothesis it can still provide us with a certain understanding of how long the second day of creation may have lasted.
And this same calculation may also give us a certain understanding of the length of the first day of creation, the duration of which was to be measured by one complete revolution of the mass of all the planetary worlds in the universe around its axis, since at that time there could be no other measurement of time. In any case, when some astronomers and geologists speak of thousands of years that were needed for the formation of the world, although such calculations cannot be absolutely reliable, at the same time there is nothing unbelievable in them, and at least there is nothing in them that contradicts biblical teaching.
The biblical days of creation
The days of creation described in the Bible by the prophet Moses have been considered for a long time and by a great number of theologians as being periods of great duration. And this is not without foundation.
Firstly, one should not forget the well-known words of the Old and New Testaments: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; Psalms 90:4).
Secondly, one should bear in mind that in describing the creation Moses lists not six days, but seven, and naturally all the days in this cosmological week should be regarded as being so-to-speak equal and typical.
The last day, however, the seventh day, when in God’s relation with the world creation was replaced by nurture, continues to the present time, for of all other days it was said: and there was the evening and the morning of such-and-such a day, i.e. a completely finished cycle was presented, while the seventh day is not so indicated. Thus the seventh day is continuing and will continue to the very end of time, which for this reason is called the eighth day.
Thus, if the seventh day should be properly understood as a period of time lasting millennia, then the days that preceded it should be regarded accordingly.
And finally, let no one think that to understand these days in terms of long periods of time is a new thing. A number of Church Fathers, some of them quite authoritative, understood them in a similar manner – as, for example, Saints Clement of Alexandria (2nd century), Athanasius the Great (4th century), Basil the Great (4th century), blessed Augustine (4th-5th century), and others.
(To be continued)
(Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, “Brief collection of articles on apologetics”)