Q: How long were the creation days? I have a friend who believes that each day was a literal 24 hrs long, a "morning and an evening", and he feels that we question God's power if we don't believe that he created everything in one literal week. How do you answer? Are there any scriptures that help us understand this?

A: It is a common belief among fundamental Christians that God created "the heavens and the earth" in six literal days. When the Bible says after each day that "there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day... a second day... a third day;" etc., they understand that to mean literal 24-hour days. If that seems unreasonable to many, they quote Jesus' words in support, when he said that "with God all things are possible." Evolutionists on the other hand scoff at that idea, as they in turn point out that the universe, including our earth, is billions of years old. (Gen. 1:1-2:5) 

Let's consider what is involved in the creation account, as described in the book of Genesis, and see to what extent God's power comes into the picture. It shows that God had already created the heavens and the earth (the universe) "in the beginning". So these already existed when God said regarding the first day: "Let light come to be." (Gen. 1:1-5) How long did it take for there to be light? It would have been possible for God to simply hit the light switch and have the light turn on instantly, if he was in a hurry and wanted it done that way. And, on the second day, he could just as easily have caused the division of the waters, which already existed, to have them upon the earth and above the earth; with the "expanse" in between, which he called "Heaven", and in which the birds would later fly. (vs. 6-8)

If the third day also amounted to a literal twenty-four hours, then that would have been a little more awesome, considering that God not only made dry land appear, but then also caused grass and vegetation (including the flowers) and all sorts of trees to sprout out of the ground. Imagine the sight! Whereas it takes years for a tree to grow, here they would have been popping out of the ground all over the earth in a matter of hours. Of course, we have to allow that since all things are possible with God, he could have planted full grown trees and bushes. (vs. 9-13)

And what about the fourth day? Although enough light reached the earth to make possible the abundant growth of the great variety of vegetation, the source of the light was not yet discernable on the earth, like on an overcast day where the sun and moon are not visible. Therefore, God cleared the water canopy above the earth to allow the sun and moon to penetrate it and "shine upon the earth"; for even the stars became visible on earth, all of which would "serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years." Like the first day, this too he could have accomplished with the flick of a switch or the snap of his finger. (vs. 14-19)

On the fifth day, God said: "'Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind'. So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind." (vs. 20-23; NLT) In order for all this to have been accomplished within twenty-four hours―the waters teeming with life and the skies filled with birds of every kind―God would have had to create every bird individually, because in order for them to produce offspring "of the same kind" it takes time to lay their eggs, incubate them until they hatch, and then feed and care for the little ones until they are ready to fly off on their own. If he had created them individually in one day, then each bird would have been a separate species, unrelated one from the other. (Gen. 6:19,20; 7:1-3)

If someone wants to argue that God created all these things in five literal earth days of twenty-four hours, because "all things are possible with God", well, he could have done so if he had chosen to do so. But God was not in a hurry! (2 Peter 3:8) Consider all the things that transpired on the sixth day, and that it could not possibly have been a mere twenty-four hours in length, but must have been much, much longer, for it involves also the man who was created on the sixth day; and unlike God, not everything is possible with man. And if the sixth day was not twenty-four hours long, then what can we conclude about the other five days? Please consider:

God created the great variety of domestic and wild animals on the sixth day; after which he created man "in his own image". (vs. 24,25) If this was a literal day of twenty-four hours, what time of day was it when he began creating the animals? If we use our reckoning of when a new day begins, would God have started his creation of the animals right after midnight? Some suggest that this would have been Friday morning, because God rested on the following day, a Sabbath. Might we assume that he completed the creation of the animals within three hours or so? He next created the man Adam. What hour of the sixth day would that have been, when God "formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life"? (Gen 2:7; ESV)

After Adam comes to life, God gives him the command not to eat from the forbidden tree. (vs. 15-17) Then God brings the many variety of animals to Adam, for him to name them. How much time would that have taken? (vs. 19,20) Furthermore, God concludes that "it is not good for the man to continue by himself," and so he decides "to make a helper for him, as a complement of him." (vs. 18, 21-23) Adam is a mere few hours old and already he is lonely. Hence God has "a deep sleep fall upon the man and while he is sleeping, he takes one of his ribs and proceeds to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and to bring her to the man." Imagine all this taking place within a few hours. (1:26-28) Upon being introduced to his wife, Adam exclaims: "At last ["finally", ERV)], here is one of my own kind—Bone taken from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. ‘Woman’ is her name because she was taken out of man.” (vs. 21-23; GNT) Does the time line of all this make any sense if it all happened on the same one day of twenty-four hours? Would Adam have exclaimed, "at last," when he was given a wife, when he was not yet a day old?

Although "with God all things are possible," as Jesus said, the same cannot be said of man. Adam could not possibly have done everything we are told about him within one twenty-four hour period. To claim otherwise is to make a mockery of God's Word. No wonder so many have come to view the Bible as a book of myths and fables, although our everlasting life depends on accepting it as it truthfully is, "the word of God." (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16)