Were the first three days of creation literal days?

How could the first three days of creation be literal days if the sun was not created until day 4?

By Mike Riddle

Nov, 2015

Both nonbelievers and many in the church have been led to believe the earth must be billions of years old. A common argument used to support the idea of long ages is, “The first three days of creation could not be literal days because the sun was not created until day 4”. However, this challenge comes from a misunderstanding of both the scientific and biblical data.

Answering the challenge

The answer to this challenge has five parts.
Part 1: The Definition of a Day

A good way to answer this challenge is to start by asking a series of questions. This way the other person can discover the answer and recognize the fallacy in their original thinking. The following questions and answers can be used to show the error in their thinking:
Question 1: What is the definition of a year?

Answer 1: The time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun.
Question 2: What is the definition of a month?

Answer 2: The time it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth.
Question 3: What is the definition of a day?

Answer 3: The time it takes for the earth to rotate once on its axis.
Conclusion: We do not need the sun for the definition of a day.

Part 2: Sources of Light

In Genesis 1:3 we read:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

The Bible explicitly teaches that God created light before the sun, moon or stars. But what was this light?

There are many sources of light. There are also many types of light, not just visible light. For example:

  • Short-wave light which includes ultraviolet light and X-rays
  • Long-wave light which includes infrared light and radio waves.
  • Light is produced by friction, by fire, by numerous chemical reactions, as well as the nuclear reactions of atomic fission and fusion.

Conclusion: We can have light without the sun.


Part 3: The Hebrew Language

We must look closely at the Hebrew words used in the creation account. When God created light in verse 3, the Hebrew word used for light is ‘owr which means illumination. This indicates the presence of light only. In verse 16 when God creates the sun, the Hebrew word for light is maw-ore’ which means luminary. This indicates a light source or physical body. Furthermore, In Genesis 1:4-5 we read:


And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.


These verses teach that there was a day and night cycle (light and darkness) before the sun and moon were created. Over 40% of creation took place in the presence of this original light. The question now arises, “If there was already a day and night cycle, why did God create the sun, moon and stars?” The answer is found in verse 14 where it states:


Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.


The sun, moon, and stars were created for two reasons:

  1. For signs and seasons.
  2. For the purpose of helping man measure/count days and years.

Conclusion: The day and night cycle existed before the sun, therefore the first three days were literal days.


Part 4: A Scientific Problem

If we attempt to make the days of creation long periods of time, a serious problem arises. Genesis plainly teaches that plants appeared on day three, and the sun on day four. But plants need sunlight for photosynthesis and cannot wait in darkness for millions of years. If the days were long ages plants could not survive.


Part 5: Context

The context around the word “day” in Genesis 1 plus other supporting evidence clearly teach the days of creation were literal 24-hourt days. These include:

  • A number used with the word “day” in the Old Testament always means a day and never a long period of time.
  • The phrase “evening and morning” in the Old Testament always refers to a literal day.
  • In Exodus 20:11 (Commandment 4), God inscribed on the clay tablets that He created everything in 6 days.
  • In Mark 10:6, Jesus stated that man and woman were on earth from the beginning of creation and not after millions of years.


We should never be ashamed or feel the need to reinterpret God’s Word because of scoffers who abandon the truth for fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3). We are told to be on guard against false philosophies and doctrines (Colossians 2:8). The Bible teaches many historical facts that the world does not agree with, such as:

  • Creation in six literal days
  • A worldwide flood
  • A burning bush that is not consumed
  • A donkey speaking
  • Jonah in the belly of a large sea creature
  •  Jesus walking on water
  • Turning water into wine
  • Instant healing of the blind
  • Jesus instantly calming a storm
  • The death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus


If we can’t believe God’s first miracle (creation in 6 days) then why should we believe any other miracles in the Bible, including the Resurrection?

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Luke 9:26

Mike Riddle

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