Many who regard the Bible as the word of God insist that a literal interpretation is paramount and that this is particularly so with respect to the days of creation. While it has to be conceded that we are given no specific information on this subject, various inferences from aspects of the teaching of Scripture point in a different direction. For instance, if it took more than a literal day to prepare a body for the last Adam (cf. Luke 1:26-38; Heb. 10:5) of whom the first was a type (Rom. 5:14), we can safely conclude that it did the same for the first.
Clearly the parallels as well as the differences between the two are of basic importance. For example, it should be noted that both Adams had the same Father (Luke 3:38), but their ‘beginnings’ differed somewhat. While Jesus as the Word of God pre-existed his ‘implantation’ in the womb of Mary, Adam (apart from Eve) pre-existed his implantation in Eden. What are we to make of this this? If it is assumed on the basis of various hints throughout Scripture (e.g. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18) that Eden was the womb of mankind (the very word ‘Genesis’ points in this direction) and that Adam, apart from Eve, was implanted there (Gen. 2:8,15), we can safely draw the conclusion that Adam was the physical seed of man whose original ‘mother’ was the earth (cf. Ps. 139:15). To express the matter simply, just as David implicitly occupied two wombs, so did Adam. In other words, David clearly saw himself as having recapitulated the experience of Adam.
The notion that Adam was the ‘seed’ of the natural man (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23) would seem to receive support from David’s comment that God saw his eventual ‘frame’ even while his unformed substance was being woven in secret in the depths of the earth (as the seed is in the depths of a man’s body). It might also be added here that it was precisely in the womb of Eden that Eve derived from Adam. If this is a true interpretation of the evidence of Scripture, we shall see at once that the pattern thus established is constantly repeated. Just as God sowed the seed of man in the Garden of Eden, so does man, who is the image and glory of God, sow his seed in his wife’s womb (or garden of delight) to produce children in his image (cf. Gen. 5:1-3). This picture is surely confirmed in Isaiah 45:9f. where man is likened to God in the realm of begetting. (It might usefully be added at this point that in Scripture it is supernatural, not natural, birth that takes place in a day, Isa. 66:7-9).
On the natural level, the second Adam was created in the same image as the first (cf. Gen. 5:1-3). Their spiritual difference was worked out not at birth since both were born knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22, cf. Isa. 7:15f.) but in the course of their natural life. In other words, Jesus was a true human being precisely because he derived through his mother ultimately from the first (Luke 3:38). Physically, it is a question of ‘like father like son’. Flesh gives birth to flesh (John 3:6). And since we know so little about the first, we are forced to base our understanding of him on information provided by the second. Once we do this we are led to conclude that just as Jesus, the second Adam, was subject to development over a period of time, certainly longer than a day, so was the first Adam.
Here it is perhaps worth pointing up another parallel. The word Adam means both man, the individual, and mankind, the race, implying that the individual epitomises the race or is the race in miniature. Now it is evident beyond equivocation that mankind as a race is still in the process of development: he has not yet attained to full maturity in either good or evil (cf. Gen. 15:16; Dan. 8:23). Since this is so, it seems inexorably to follow that the individual who epitomises the race must be subject to development too. What is true of the one must be true of the other. Just as the natural or physical man comes to maturity like the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:48a,49a., cf. the physical maturation of Jesus in Luke 2 *), so the spiritual man, who is made in the image of God, is perfected in the image of the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:48b,49b, cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18, etc.). With regard to the latter Scripture spells it out even more explicitly, for in Ephesians 4:13-16 (cf. Colossians 2:1-7; Phil. 3:12-15) Paul tells us that we are all together called to attain to the measure of the stature of Christ whose own individual manhood was perfected under the law and in the Spirit (Heb. 2:10; 5:8f., etc.).
The idea of development from seed to maturity is basic to Scripture and relates particularly to the subject of man’s perfection or development from birth to adulthood. First, all readers of the NT can hardly be unaware of the fact that God implants or sows his word in the hearts of his people to initiate the new birth. The parable of the sower is one of the best known of all parables and teaches explicitly that “the sower sows the word” (Mk. 4:14). Other relevant references are James 1:18,21, 1 Peter 1:23 and 1 John 3:9, for example. But the interesting point to note is that God is also said to plant people. Jeremiah is particularly rich in the imagery of planting that implies that just as Adam was taken from the earth and transplanted in the Garden of Eden so Israel was transplanted in the Promised Land, another Eden of a kind characterised by the presence of God, as a choice vine (Jer. 2:21) from Egypt (Ps. 80:8ff., cf. Gen. 49:9-12; Isa. 5:1-7; 27:2-6; Ezek. 15:1-6; 17:1-10; Mt. 21:33-41; John 15:1-8). The prophet makes further use of this imagery in 11:17; 12:2; 24:6; 32:41; 42:10, cf. 17:8; 45:4, which is also employed in Isaiah 40:24, cf. vv.6-8, and 60:21 (cf. Ezek. 16:7 and the allegory of ch. 17).
There are three OT texts of particular relevance, however, and these I want briefly to examine. First, Jeremiah 31:27 tells us that God “will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast”. Here, as elsewhere the implication is that God uses seed in the normal process of procreation to reach his goal of ultimate maturity. This suggests that the likelihood of Adam being created fully mature in body and spirit in one day is virtually zero.
If we are inclined to regard this as less than convincing, it is worth taking a look at Ezekiel 36:9-11, where the picture is more clearly etched. The language of tilling, sowing and multiplying is strongly reminiscent of Genesis (see 1:28; 2:5,15). So it is reasonable to conclude that the process presented by Ezekiel, which clearly involves more than twenty-four hours, is a reflection or recapitulation of what happened at the beginning when the pattern was first established. And it might be added here that the word for ‘man’ (ESV) or ‘men’ (NIV) is Adam (see e.g. Wright, BST The Message of Ezekiel, p.286 n.41).
In Hosea 2:23 God is said to sow him (or her) for himself. Again the image of sowing suggests the process of creation. Thus D.A.Hubbard (TOTC on Hosea, p.90) says that the positive use of the word Jezreel (v.22) implies God’s gift of fertility in his land. He goes on to point out that the Hebrew zr’ describes pregnancy in Numbers 5:28. So once more a lengthy process of more than 24 hours is involved.
The mills of God may grind slowly but they do so nonetheless surely (Isa. 64:4) as he works out his historical plan of salvation from beginning to end (Isa. 46:10f.). In light of this and apart from other difficulties it causes, I suggest that the notion of creation in six twenty-four hour days is alien to the entire Bible. Only a dogmatic stand on a literal interpretation that runs counter to all the biblical evidence at our disposal can possibly appear to justify it.
* See B.B.Warfield’s essay on The Human Development in Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, Nutley, 1970, p. 158ff.