# When does the first day of Genesis 1 begin?

This may sound like a silly question at first, but I honestly can't decide for myself. I've always assumed that where the text says "And there was evening, and there was morning—the *n*th day" that this is the same day in which the events depicted in the preceding verse take place. E.g., God's actions in Gen.1:1-4 occurred on the 'first day' referred to in Gen.1:5.

But it occurred to me that Hebrew days begin at dusk. Therefore, might not the correct reading be that the events of Gen.1:1-4 take place, then Day One begins with evening and morning in line Gen.1:5? In this scenario the events of Day One are actually Gen.1:6-7 where God separates the waters above from the waters below.

So where precisely does the first day begin? The more times I read the verses, the more reasons I think of how either way might be justified, so I'm curios what the experts have to say.

• Gen 1:5 (KJV) "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day". It is in this Bible verse the cross is introduced. – Constantthin Dec 10 '17 at 6:21

If we translate the phrase וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר (vayhi erev vayhi voker) 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. the events in Gen. 1:1–4 occur at that time before the evening.

David Miano wrote,1

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.

## References

Miano, David. Shadow on the Steps: Time Measurement in Ancient Israel. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010.

## Footnotes

1 p. 11–12

• The "and" only re-iterates the "then". There was Evening (Darkness) before there was light. How long that first darkness was is debatable but those thereafter were certain periods of darkness as we know.! Yes there was time, but to restrict the first period of darkness to the length of the proceeding nights would be fallacious to the extent that God is not restricted by our assumptions. It is also possible that the period of time from the when the Spirit of God began to hover over the water, was only the same as the length of the nights proceeding. What difference does it make? – John Unsworth Nov 12 '13 at 10:02
• @Simply a Christian - Are you saying that Genesis defines a day from sunlight to sunlight? Thank you. – TruthSeeker May 19 '17 at 15:13
• @TruthSeeker—I think the bolded text clearly states so. – user862 May 19 '17 at 17:55
• @Simply a Christian - What about Sabbath then? How come it begins at sunset? 32 "It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath." - Leviticus 23:32, thank you. – TruthSeeker May 19 '17 at 21:16
• @TruthSeeker—See p. 12, especially the last line. – user862 May 19 '17 at 21:28

You have a very interesting question, David. I am not an expert but only a continuing student of the scripture. My answer is solely based on the light of my understanding of other clear verses of scripture.

Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. NKJV

Ex 20:11

11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. NKJV

The above verses, scripture covers the breadth of creation in the beginning: the heavens and the earth. To me, these clearly declare the whole act of creation happened in six days as we know them. This understanding is confirmed by other verses in scripture, e.g., Ex 24:16, 31:15, 35:2; Jo 6:3.

Creation started without light; then God gave light. To me, this perfectly fits the declaration that there was evening; then there was morning.

We might think how could God work when there was no light? We must remember that God himself is light (1 Jh 1:5). He created the light that humans need to work in his service; and, to see and enjoy the beauty of his creation.

That also perfectly fits the human condition: from darkness; and God's saving grace: to light:

1 Pe 2:9 that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; NKJV

So, to me, the first day began when scripture declared it in three simple words: in the beginning, i.e., Ge 1:1.

The creation account in Genesis is describing cosmic events in terms that ordinary men and women could understand. It is best taken as a straightforward historical account of the events of creation.

If this is the case, then the first day began at the start, the beginning. It couldn't start at the end of the day because this was the beginning of time.

The 'evening, morning, the nth day' is describing a normal conclusion of one day and the move to the next in the same way that we would say 'he slept on it, then the next day...' - the point of this phrase being to indicate a sequence of days over which the creation events took place, not to give a 'point in time'.

There are 6 verses in Genesis ch. 1, {5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31}, which in many accurate translations - except two significant ones that I will consider below - read, respectively:

"And there was evening and there was morning, {one | a 2nd | a 3rd | a 4th | a 5th | a 6th} day."

The issue is whether the evening and morning in each of these 6 verses:

a. came BEFORE the divine activity narrated immediately before the verse, so that God performed that activity during the daytime which began with the morning in question, or

b. came AFTER the divine activity narrated immediately before the verse, so that the evening came right after God had finished performing his activity, and the following morning marked the end of day n and the beginning of day (n+1).

In brief, the sequence in each option is:

a. evening when day n begins, morning of day n, God's work of day n,

b. God's work of day n, evening of day n, morning when day n ends and day (n+1) begins.

To assess these options, we must note that almost every verse of Gen ch. 1 begins with a waw-consecutive, the exceptions being verses 1 & 2. This is a construction that usually indicates chronological sequence but can sometimes indicate logical consequence, so that an event introduced this way may be chronologically prior to an event mentioned immediately before it but is its logical consequence. Thus, after the text described an initial state of darkness and narrated the subsequent creation of light, the logical consequence is to frame the time elapsed so far as an evening that started nightime followed by a morning that started daytime, which together comprise one day, whereby days are reckoned evening to evening.

Noting that interpreting the initial waw consecutive of the 6 verses in question as meaning logical consequence instead of chronological sequence is unequivocally reflected by replacing the first "And" in these verses with "So", we see that this is the case of two contemporary Messianic translations, the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB, 1998) and the Tree of Life Version (TLV, 2014). They do seem to have good knowledge of Hebrew.

Two additional arguments for evening to evening reckoning.

1. Since the time elapsed before the creation of light is left out of the 1st day in morning to morning reckoning, for Ex 20:11 to be accurate in that reckoning, either we should hold "creation ex materia" instead of "creation ex nihilo", or the verse should say, "For in six days, plus a few initial irrelevant hours, the LORD made the heavens and the earth, [...]".

2. In this passage from John's Gospel:

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early, it being still dark, and she sees the stone having been removed from the tomb. (Jn 20:1, Berean Literal Bible)

the Apostle is stating most clearly that "the first day of the week", i.e. Sunday, had already begun while "it being still dark", i.e. before sunrise. Therefore, for John calendar days began at sunset. (Unless an argument were made that he used Roman time reckoning according to which calendar days begin at midnight, which IMV would be preposterous).

Finally, I will provide a summary of both time reckoning schemes adding the respective consequences if, noting that for the writer of Genesis ch. 1 the seventh day was still ongoing, we want to fit Jesus' life, passion and resurrection in the theological time framework of that chapter.

-----------------------------------------------------+-----------------------------------------+
{Sd: [v.] State of deficiency / Da: v. Divine action}| v{evening/morning}: day{night/day}      |
-----------------------------------------------------+-----------------------------------------+
Da: 1 (*). God creates the universe ex nihilo.       | evening to evening | morning to morning |
-> Time starts to elapse.                        | day reckoning      | day reckoning      |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------+--------------------+
Sd: 2. Darkness is over the surface of the deep.     | 5e:     1n         |        None        |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 3. God creates light.                            | 5m:     1d         |         1d         |
5. "Day" & "night".                              |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
Sd: Water fills all of space.                        | 8e:     2n         | 5e:     1n         |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 6-7. God makes firmament by separating waters.   | 8m:     2d         | 5m:     2d         |
8. "Heavens".                                    |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
Sd: Earth is covered by water.                       | 13e:    3n         | 8e:     2n         |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 9. God makes dry land appear by gathering waters.| 13m:    3d         | 8m:     3d         |
10. "Earth" & "seas".                            |                    |                    |
11-12. God makes plants.                         |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
Sd: Heavens are empty of luminaries.                 | 19e:    4n         | 13e:    3n         |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 14-18. God makes sun, moon and stars.            | 19m:    4d         | 13m:    4d         |
-> Heavens is filled with luminaries.            |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
Sd: Seas & heavens are empty of life.                | 23e:    5n         | 19e:    4n         |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 20-22. God makes sea creatures and birds.        | 23m:    5d         | 19m:    5d         |
-> Seas & heavens are filled with animal life.   |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
Sd: Earth is empty of animal and human life.         | 31e:    6n         | 23e:    5n         |
-----------------------------------------------------|                    |--------------------+
Da: 24-30. God makes animals and CREATES (bara) man. | 31m:    6d         | 23m:    6d         |
-> Earth filled with animal & human life.        |                    |                    |
-----------------------------------------------------+--------------------|                    |
| Adam's sin: 7n     | 31e:    6n         |
|                    |--------------------+
| JC's life: 7d      | 31m:    7d         |
+--------------------|                    |
| JC's passion: 8n   | Adam's sin: 7n     |
|                    |--------------------+
| JC's rising: 8d    | JC's life: 8d      |
|....................|                    |
| JC's passion: 8n   |
|--------------------+
(*) Alternatively, v. 1 could be a title for the narration in ch. 1.      | JC's rising: 9d    |
|....................|


If light equals day, then a day is the period light. A day begins when light begins. A day ends when light ends. Evening and morning are part of a Day. Evening ends a day and morning begins a day. Darkness is the absence of light and is therefore not part of a day. It is stated that God "separated" the light from the darkness, calling the light "day", and calling the darkness "night". Where does it say that God "combined" the light and the darkness and called this combination a day? Yet this is the combination that we have been taught to accept.

It might be helpful to separate "In the beginning" from day one because the universe is millions of years older that Bible account of Adam's chronology. Genesis 1:1 makes a statement of fact that in the beginning God created the earth. The Hebrew word for created is bara' (to create ex nihilo, from nothing. This includes the galaxies, the stars, our solar system and our planet. then Genesis 1:2 switches the discussion to our planet and points out its condition. Then in Gen1:3 the formation and arrangement of the earth is discussed the word bara' is not used in the rest of the chapter. Other words such as to make from existing matter (asah), to form (yatzar), and to ordain, establish, to appoint (kun) are used According to the bible-chronology this formation took place from 6,000 -10,000 years ago depending whether the Hebrew text of the LXX. that the earth was dark is attested by Job 38:9. So what happen when it says,"Let there be light" it's the removal of the dark clouds that were around the earth. The sun, moons and stars were already there. The Bible and science are compatible. What happens is that people tie Gen 1:1 to there rest of Genesis chap. one. Gen 1:1 uses the perfect tense which is completed action, Gen 1:3 uses the imperfect tense, which indicates ongoing action. So the six days of formation of earth happened millions of years later.

• There is no evidence that the ancient Hebrews were any more knowledgeable about the universe then the rest of the Mesopotamian cultures. There was no concept of a "universe" in that day and age. – seedy3 Nov 1 '15 at 21:45
• Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour to learn what we are about... I think you've answered the question, but I'm not really seeing what your conclusion is. Can you better explain what these thoughts have to do with "When the first day of Genesis began"? – ThaddeusB Nov 1 '15 at 22:43