Glossary of Terms. In order to communicate with one another, words and phrases must have consistent and comprehensible meaning, and theological terms must also be biblically derived and defensible. Quite simply, I would like to present some working definitions of key terms and phrases in this debate along with some comments how different camps understand the terms and what some of the potential issues are associated with these terms. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive nor to replace your favorite theological dictionary; after all, whole books have been written on many of these topics.[i]
Creation in six days. Ex nihilo fabrication (Heb. bārā’) of matter, energy, and time from absolutely nothing in the space of six days by a Spirit being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal. The Genesis narrative (Gen 1) describes the origin of the observable cosmos and the beginning of human history. Paul instructs the church that God’s Son was the active creator of all things in heaven and earth, whether visible or invisible, and that He actively holds in balance the elements of the universe as well as maintaining superintendence over all human societies (Col 1:16-17). A fourth element of this world—information—pre-existed creation, and conveys the personal and triune nature of God (Gen 1:27). Not only do things exist, but they exist in quantity, variation, time intervals, order, value, relationships, and levels of complexity by virtue of the encoded information in living things and the physical properties of matter. “There is nothing in the text itself to indicate that the days are not regular 24-hour days or that they are not real days.”[ii] “At no time does the Pentateuch even hint at anything other than creation in six 24-hour days.”[iii]
The six days must be six actual days in order 1) to provide a true paradigm for Sabbath-keeping (LD, CS, and SS positions) and 2) to form a basis for typological fulfillment which is rooted in real history (LD position). With the advent of evolutionary theory, some biblical scholars question the meaning of those six days. I would assume that those who hold to a non-literal interpretation of the days of creation would have difficulty attributing morality to the sequence of six days work and one day of rest. That is, if the “days” are not really days as we know them, then the moral imperative for Sabbath-keeping based on God’s creation week activities is weakened or not defensible at all. It would be as if God said, “I want you to live your life this way based on a story I made up.” As Duncan and Hall (CS) conclude, “If the cosmogony or aspects of it are merely a literary framework or a didactic tool, then the theology as a whole loses its force…”[iv] Yet, non-literalist Harris (CS) explains that the weekly pattern is merely symbolic of creation and rest, and since our one rest-day symbolizes God’s eternal rest, the remaining six days of our week are merely symbolic of God’s work, no matter how long that took.[v]Hmm.
God ‘rest’ on the seventh day. A predetermined state of having ceased (Heb. shābath) the intended plan of creation by an additional day of symbolic “rest” that He shares with sinless man and creation in perfect harmony. That is, the creation of the cosmos was completed in the duration of six days, and the next day, having finished, ceased, and completed His work, God set apart (i.e., sanctified) and blessed (Gen 2:1-3), thus intentionally and designedly giving significance to a seven-period. This solitary day of cessation implies 1) an attained state of beatitude for God, which is called “His rest” (Heb 4:3-4, 10), and 2) a heightened state of completion by inclusion of the seventh day. “The Hebrew there does not literally mean that God rested after creating the world and everything in it, but that God ‘ceased’ from the divine labors on the seventh day.”[vi] That is, the idea of finding relief following strenuous labor is not the point of the text; only that God finished His work and that His work was flawlessly beautiful to Him. Therefore, the reader of the text would yearn for the peace and holy fellowship characterized by the seventh day, not merely a weekly day off work. “For the writer of Genesis 1-2, the significance of the Sabbath [later given to Israel] partakes of the significance that adheres to seven-day purification cycles in general.”[vii] Again, the reader of the text would comprehend that the number seven has significance to the God who created him. CS and SS: hold that the seventh day of the creation week marks the institution of the first of a recurring weekly sabbatic rest for mankind. LD denies.
While the omission of the phrase “the evening and the morning” on the seventh day may suggest an eternal “rest” or state of completion, the mundane reality is that it was still the seventh day of the first week of creation and it was the second day of Adam’s existence. God did not call the first day of the second week a day of rest, and so on; and yet God did not behave differently on the succeeding days (8, 9, 10, . . .) than He did on the seventh day. Furthermore, God did not need to rest in the same way that fallen mankind needs to rest from labor, therefore His “rest” is of a different order. Adam did not perform seven days of labor prior to God’s “rest”, so Adam had nothing to rest from and no cosmic rhythm that obliged his soul. The fact that Adam and Eve did not remain in that symbolic eternal “rest” further suggests the introduction of sin into the world soon after their creation, likely on the seventh day. So, Adam did not perform six days work prior to God’s rest, and Adam did not remain in God’s rest since he was banished to work outside the garden by the sweat of his brow. Just as clearly as the text disallows epochs of time, so it disallows a weekly Sabbath.
Rest. As a verb (Heb. sābath or menûha; Gk. anapauō or katapauō), to cease (Gen 2:2-3), often from labor (Ex 5:5), and thereby to enter a state of repose (Ex 34:21), refreshment (Deut 5:14; Isa 28:12; Mk 6:31), security (Ru 3:1), or peace (Josh 22:4; Lam 1:3); even the cessation of life’s labors (Dan 12:13; Rev 6:11). As a noun, it alludes to the seventh day of creation as God’s rest, a symbol of a right relationship with God (Heb 4:10); the Sabbath as a day of rest (Ex 31:15); the land of Canaan as a place of rest (Deut 3:20; Josh 1:13); the absence of military conflicts as a state of rest (Josh 23:1; Esth 9:22); and redemption in the person of Jesus Christ as true soulical rest (Ex 33:14; Deut 3:20; Matt 11:28; Heb 4:3, 9). “No human has ever created like God did, and, therefore, no human could rest like He did.”[viii] “Comprehensive reflection… leads to the conclusion… the OT points beyond itself, and that the rest is still in the sphere of promise.”[ix] See Part 2c What are the Texts?
The theme of rest is present throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation (See previous outline of Scripture). God’s seventh day rest, a time of magnificent perfection and holiness, became a reality lost due to man’s sin and subsequent expulsion from the Garden, whereas redemption and the re-creation of a new heavens and earth restore fallen, yet forgiven, people to God’s eternal “rest.” The concept of spiritual rest is re-introduced to national Israel ritualistically by way of weekly and annual Sabbaths, the Sabbath of the Land, Jubilee, Canaan, the temple, seven-periods, and through the lives of various leaders. Yet, Israel never experienced true rest as symbolized by the seventh day when God “rested.” This fact underscores the symbolism of Israel’s various rests as shadows of the perfect provider of a perfect rest (Col 2:16). In Christ, believers receive the already/not yet fulfilment of that rest (Heb 4:3).
[i] Resources consulted: The Theological Wordbook, Campbell, et.al.; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, et.al.; New Englishman’s Greek Concordance, Wigram; Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Gowan, ed.; Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
[ii] Shaw, Benjamin (CS), “The Literal-Day Interpretation” in Did God Create in Six Days?, Eds. Pipa and Hall; White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2005; p.214.
[iii] Duncan, J. Ligon III and Hall, David W. “The 24-Hour View” in The Genesis Debate, ed. David G. Hagopian, Mission Viejo, CA:Crux Press, Inc., 2001; p. 36.
[iv] Duncan, J. Ligon III and Hall, David W. “The 24-Hour View” in The Genesis Debate, ed. David G. Hagopian, Mission Viejo, CA:Crux Press, Inc., 2001; p. 25.
[v] Harris, R. Laird, “The Length of the Creative Days in Genesis 1” in Did God Create in Six Days?, Eds. Pipa and Hall; White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2005; p. 109-111. See also, Young, E. J. “Sabbath” in The New Bible Dictionary who says “Thus there appears the distinction between the six days of labour and the one of rest. This is true, even if the six days of labour be construed as periods of time longer than twenty-four hours. The language is anthropomorphic, for God is not a weary workman in need of rest. Nevertheless, the pattern is here set for man to follow.” In other words, even if these were not days as we understand them, God, having used anthropomorphic language to convey a pattern rather than a reality, implies an obligation to follow this pattern. This is true, even if it is false.
[vi] Klagsbrun, Francine. The Fourth Commandment, p. 26.
[vii] Meier, Samuel A. “The Sabbath and Purification Cycles” in The Sabbath in Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Eskanazi, et. al., Crossroad Publishing: New York, 1991, p. 9.
[viii] Jeanson, Nathaniel T. “The Lost Treasures of Genesis” ICR:Dallas, TX, 2013, p. 33. (Italics in the original)
[ix] “katapauo” TDNT, Vol. 3, p. 627.