Genesis and Angular Momentum
In a letter in the October APS News
, Mike Strauss explained the discrepancy between Genesis and modern cosmology regarding the age of Earth as due to the “long” Hebrew days in Genesis. Would he be so kind to explain the following in Genesis 1 (and similarly in Genesis 1, 8- 31):
4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5: And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
I am particularly interested in the reconciliation of “long” days or “periods of time” with the current short days and the conservation of angular momentum of Earth. How did the earth’s rotation increase by such an enormous amount? Alfred A. Brooks Oak Ridge, TN Mike Strauss responds:
I’m glad that Alfred Brooks is looking carefully at the text of Genesis. As with any language, the meaning of the words is found primarily in the context. The same word can have two or more different meanings even in the same sentence, as in, “On Christmas day it snowed all day, but cleared up at dusk.” In that sentence the first use of the word “day” refers to a period of about 24 hours, while the second refers to a period of daylight, maybe 10 hours. The context tends to reveal the best meaning. The Hebrew word “yom,” translated “day,” has many different meanings, including (1) 24 hours, (2) the part of a solar day that is light, and (3) a long period of time like an “era” or “epoch”. There are places in Genesis, like parts of verse 4 and 5 as pointed out by Alfred Brooks, where the best meaning of the word “yom” is given by (2) above. However, many Hebrew linguists believe that the meaning of “yom,” when referring to the six “days” of creation, is best given by (3) above, an “epoch”. The scholar Gleason Archer Jr. wrote, “On the basis of internal evidence, it is this writer’s conviction that ‘yom’ in Genesis 1 could not have been intended by the Hebrew author to mean a literal twenty-four-hour day.” (From “A Survey of Old Testament Introduction” (1994)). The context indicates that, when referring to the six “days” of creation, the word “yom” in the Hebrew text may best be translated into English as six “epochs” of creation, with each epoch taking many hundreds of millions of years or so. There is then no problem with conservation of angular momentum, and no time-scale discrepancy between the biblical text and the known 14-billion-year age of the universe.