If we translate the phrase וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר (vayhi erev vayhi boker) as:
- "then there was evening; then there was morning"
- "and there was evening; and there was morning"
then it reasons that 1) there was a time before the evening, and 2) Gen. 1:1-4 occur at that time before the evening.
The repeated refrain, "and evening came, and morning came," on each creative day suggests to some that the author is stating the order of the day. A few considerations should lay this argument to rest.
.....(1) The combination ערב ("evening") and בקר ("morning") is not equivalent to לילה ("nighttime") and יום ("daytime"), and in fact does not add up to a complete day, but amounts only to two lesser parts of one day. We cannot, therefore, understand the two-fold refrain as constituting some kind of summation of two parts of an entire day of creation.
.....(2) The appearance of the consecutive waw before the refrain suggests that the evening and morning are part of a sequence of events. We should not therefore understand them in isolation from the rest of the events mentioned on any given creative day. The sequence is as follows: (1) act or acts of creation; (2) evening; (3) morning. The evening clearly follows the creative activity that occurs during the day.
.....(3) If the evening follows God's creative acts on any given day, the evening cannot be the beginning of the day, but rather would be the concluding part of it. It is the morning that would signal the transition from one day to the next.
(Special thanks to an En Hakkore for bringing this to my attention.)
David Miano, Shadow on the Steps: Time Measurement in Ancient Israel (Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study 64; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), pp. 11-12.