IBRI Research Report #27 (1985)
 

CREATION AND CAPRON'S EXPLANATORY
INTERPRETATION, c. 1902
A LITERATURE SEARCH

Dallas E. Cain

Copyright © 1985 by Dallas E. Cain. All rights reserved.
 
 

ABSTRACT

Hugh Capron of England was a scientist whose analysis of Genesis One gave rise to a new scheme that is compatible with science. He portrays the record as teaching that the divine commands were not fulfilled instantaneously on the days on which they were issued, but instead were fulfilled over long periods of time. The work is in the commands, and the days relate to the commands, not to the fulfillments.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Although the author is in agreement with the doctrinal statement of IBRI, it does not follow that all of the viewpoints espoused in this paper represent official positions of IBRI. Since one of the purposes of the IBRI report series is to serve as a preprint forum, it is possible that the author has revised some aspects of this work since it was first written. 

ISBN 0-944788-27-0


Creation and Capron's Explanatory
Interpretation, c. 1902: A Literature Search

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 INTRODUCTION

 I. SORTING THROUGH CAPRON’ S TWO CHAPTERS OF ARGUMENTS, HIS RATIONALE IS AS FOLLOWS:

A. The fiat alone is the operating agent.

B. Enter “the explanatory interpretation.”

C. Other participants in the writing of Scripture understood the fiat was the operating agent.

D. The Biblical text does not demand that the fulfillment occur on the fiat day.

E. The text suggests that the fulfillments follow after the fiat days.

F. Other support for separating the fulfillment from the fiat day.

G. Capron’s conclusion.


 II. COMMENT

 III. EXTENSION TO INCLUDE THE CONCEPT OF NONCONSECUTIVE DAYS

 IV. EXTENSION TO INCLUDE THE CONCEPT OF “COMPLETION DAYS”

 V. CONCLUSIONS

 VI. WRAP-UP

 REFERENCES

 APPENDIX I, GENESIS ONE WITH EXPLANATORY INFORMATION ENCLOSED IN PARENTHESES AND INDENTED

 APPENDIX II, CAPRON’S OPTIONS CATEGORIZED AMONG THE OTHER OPTIONS THAT ARE PUBLISHED.


Creation and Capron's Explanatory
Interpretation, c. 1902: A Literature Search

INTRODUCTION 1

Fredrick Hugh Capron 2  of England was a theologian-scientist and a prolific writer on difficult themes. He makes a major contribution to the reservoir of our understandings of the record of creation. In The Conflict of Truth he is completely involved in the battle of his day, yet he develops a theme of timeless importance. It is a gem and it has been overlooked. His thesis pivots on an explanatory interpretation and almost no trace of it is discernible now, 80 years later. This is surprising for a theme in a work that had 10 editions over a period of 35 years.

The Conflict of Truth is addressed to Herbert Spencer and to the Nebular Hypothesis; 500 pages and 29 chapters. Tucked in the middle, at chapters 11 and 12. is the theme that warrants lifting out for separate consideration. Would that it had been published separately!

Here is what is unique in his thesis: The natural tendency with Genesis One is to follow one’s first impression and assume that each creation fiat was miraculously fulfilled immediately. There are four parts to the record of each step in creation (the fiat, the fulfillment, the post-fulfillment activity and the day) and our first impressions see the day as encompassing everything. Capron discovers that the structure of the record permits the fulfillment to come after the day, and to take a long time for completion. Thus, with indefinite time spans, a fulfillment may extend to the point of overlapping successive fulfillments. Capron is breaking new ground in showing that the fulfillment sections of Genesis One are explanatory or parenthetical, which allows the separation of the fulfillment from the day. This separation, while retaining the literalness of the days, allows indefinite time for everything, allows processes to have a prominent place, allows overlapping of the fulfillments, and still the fiat itself is the input work that brings about each step. So Exodus 20:11 is also literal with “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” 3
 

I. SORTING THROUGH CAPRON’S TWO CHAPTERS OF ARGUMENTS, HIS RATIONALE IS AS FOLLOWS:

A. The fiat alone is the operating agent.

Stark language has been used by Hugh Capron in order to make his point, so recognize the three parentheses in the following quotation as editorial insertions intended to clarify:

When we turn to the text, we observe that the history of each of the six days is uniformly introduced by the notable words, “And God said.” No reader, however superficial, can fail to be struck by this remarkable circumstance, that God on each day is in the first instance represented not to have done something, but to have said something (not to have made something, but to have commanded something)....When we read, “Let there be light, and there was light,” we have no difficulty in concluding that the writer intends that the operative agent in the production of the phenomenon light was the “Fiat” of God, and nothing more; that, in order to produce light, God did nothing beyond pronouncing the command (God initiated nothing in addition to the command). So too when we read, “And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so,” we cannot avoid the conclusion that here, too, it is represented that the required phenomenon was produced, not by any active formative interference on the part of Deity (not by any subsequent injection of a mid-course adjustment) but simply by the pronouncing of a command, which was obeyed .


This is a salient point and it does not catch us by surprise. The work input into the system is in the fiat.

Capron also adds that this viewpoint, which recognizes the fiat as the work input into the system,

…. is further recommended by the circumstance that it would attribute the origin of all phenomena to one and the same cause—namely, the Word of God.
B. Enter the “explanatory interpretation.”

If “Let there be...” is the sole operating agent that brings about the change, it is obvious, by process of elimination, that any subsequent statement is given as “explanation” of things that followed the fiat, given as a parenthesis or as a recount of the fulfillment. Capron is particularly concerned to recognize the “And God made” statements as not being operative agents; thus he eliminates any question about the explanatory character of all the words between the fiat and the day:

. . . the subsequent “God made” being added incidentally by way of explanation of what was the mechanical result of the previously narrated “God said.” For this reason we shall, for the sake of convenience, distinguish this interpretation as “the explanatory interpretation.”


We today may follow up this distinction by using parentheses and indenting all the fulfillment information as an aid to the study of Genesis One. An example is shown below at the discussion of day two, and in Appendix I the whole of the six days is presented in this format.

Umberto Cassuto, 1944, would have concurred with the explanatory interpretation as shown by his remark regarding verse 7, “And God made the firmament, etc. Here, too, as in verse 3, the words of the divine fiat are repeated in the announcement that it had been executed.” (Dr. Cassuto was professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)

The translators of the NIV also see verse 7 as explanatory, as evidenced by their choice of “so” to represent the introductory word required by the Hebrew.
 

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”
        (7 So God made the expanse
        and separated the water under the expanse
        from the water above it.
        And it was so.
        8 God called the expanse “sky.”)
And there was evening,
and there was morning—the second day.
"So" is likewise used at verses 21 ad 27 in the NIV.

C. Other participants in the writing of scripture understood the fiat was the operating agent.

If a classical student is in doubt as to the meaning of some passage in a Greek author, he enquires whether any other Greek writer, either actually, or approximately, contemporary with the author in question, has left on record what he understood to be the meaning. . . .Whatever date we may attribute to Religion’s cosmogony, the obvious allusions to it which are to be found in the thirty-third Psalm will probably satisfy most scholars that the author of that Psalm was not unfamiliar with the first chapter of Genesis. Writing, then, with this chapter before him, this is the Psalmist’s view of the agency by which the Universe was formed; this is, in other words, the interpretation which he puts upon the language of Genesis. Of the earth, he writes: “For He spake, and it was; He commanded, and it stood fast;” and of the heaven and its worlds he is, if possible, still more explicit: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

This last is the Psalmist’s interpretation of “and God said, Let there be lights in the expanse... And God made two great lights, the stars also.” It is true that the Bible elsewhere speaks of heaven as “the work of Thy fingers” but this and other passages, in which existing phenomena are referred to as the works of God’s hands, will be found, on examination, only to refer to the nature of their authorship—to the fact that it is God who is their Author—and do not refer (as the two passages just cited clearly do) to the mode or means by which God produced them.

If any further conformation of this view is required, it is supplied by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who must be taken to have been familiar with the first chapter of Genesis (whether in the Hebrew, or the Septuagint translation, is immaterial), and who states it as his view of the origin of the Universe that “the worlds have been framed by the word of God,

To which authority we may, with similar force, add the authority of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word....All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

(The quotations are from Psalm 36:9,6, Heb. 11:3 and John 1:1,3.)

Hugh Capron does not mention the other possibility, that the commonality in these scriptural portions may be attributed to their common inspiration by the Holy Spirit. This also would obviously have supported conclusively that the fiat was the operating agent.

D. The Biblical text does not demand that the fulfillment occur on the fiat day. (This consideration actually initiates the second phase of Capron’s rationale.)

When we read the 7th verse, “And God made the expanse,” the question naturally arises, “When did He make it?” To this question almost everyone will reply, “On the second day, the day on which the command, ‘Let there be an expanse’ was uttered.” But is it certain that this is the right answer? Clearly we are not necessarily committed to it; for the text nowhere states, either expressly or by necessary implication, that the effect was produced on the day on which the command was given; and if, as we are endeavoring to show, the words are added not as part of the narrative proper, but by way of an independent explanation, there is obviously still less reason why we should of necessity be obliged to adhere to such an interpretation.
(Capron calls the “narrative proper” the statement “And God said, Let there be...”)

E. The text suggests that the fulfillments follow after the fiat days.

Capron’s main argument here is a common one, and it carries considerable weight. On day six, relative to man, “male and female” are mentioned in Genesis 1:27, yet the activities leading up to Eve in 2:20-22 strongly suggest that all these activities, to have been accomplished meaningfully, would have required more time than the daylight hours of the sixth day. Aside from our recognition ourselves that meaningfulness is a hallmark of God, meaningfulness is also pointed out to be essential on the basis of the particular wording used by Adam at 2:23: “This is now bone of my bone. . . or in the RSV, “This at last is bone of my bone...”

The record indeed makes us doubly sure that Eve must be included in the fulfillment of the fiat for man. At 1:31 the announcement is made that “. . . all. . .was very good,” while at 2:18-20 we are carefully shown that with Adam alone “It is not good...” Eve is thus very essential to the arrival of the status “very good.”

Capron adds two other types of argument at this particular point (pp. 183-186 and 187-191) but here his arguments seem strained. His point just above is a valid one that is often explored. It would have seemed best to have erred here on the side of caution in deference to his overall thesis which is new, since new concepts have adequate jeopardy all their own.

In search of support from the text of scripture there is a suggestion in Genesis 2:17 that parallels the concept of fiat days with follow-on fulfillments. This verse states: “For in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Note that the same Hebrew word “YOM” is used here for day as in Genesis One. Our understanding of what actually happened at the Fall was that the decree of death became effective at the time of the sin, though its completed fulfillment did not take place until much later by earth-time: “Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died” (Gen. 5:5). It is really not strange that God’s decrees and their fulfillments are spoken of as one, since the fulfillments are “sure,” as in the English translation of “MENE: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.” (Dan. 5:26-28) Here the fulfillment yet future (that night) is spoken of as accomplished.

In verse 9 regarding “land” the first impression is that the fulfillment was completed within day three, but along with this impression comes a big flag of caution. Here the record actually avoids saying “Let there be land. And it was so.” Instead it depicts processes by saying “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let the dry ground appear.” Today we know that draining and drying of a land mass would not be measured in hours, even if immediate adjustments were made to raise the earth’s crust and provide a land mass. Both this and the sixth day argument above were proposed by William Whiston (Davis Young, 1982, pp. 34-35) in 1696. This antedates any significant pressure from geology. (Whiston was astounding—he succeeded Newton in the chair of mathematics at Cambridge and was an Anglican priest. Among his many works, the most famous is his translation of Josephus, which is in common use today, approximately 300 years later.)

Tayler Lewis, 1855, pp. 129-130, at verse 9 comments against instantaneous fulfillment:

. . . . the objection comes from the very face of the account. The language forbids this supposition. There is evidently conveyed by it the thought of a process of some kind, longer or shorter. There is that which looks like a causation, a train of sequences or, in other words, an energizing of natural powers producing natural results.
(Dr. Lewis was professor of Greek at Union College, Schenectady, and was “one of the ablest and most learned classical and Biblical scholars of America.” — Philip Schaff, p. vi of “Genesis” by J. P. Lange.)

But before leaving the subject of dry land, Davis Young, 1977 (pp. 56-60, 125-126) and Newman and Eckelmann, Jr., 1977 (pp. 76-78), would alert us that we cannot leave our first model for dry land in such a simplistic state The basic rock that forms the continents is different from the basic rock at the bottom of the oceans—different in chemistry and in density. And probably because of the difference in density the thickness is different. The oceanic crust is about five miles thick and the continental crust twenty to forty miles thick. The processes behind the big difference in composition are not understood. To relate all this to the question of time, it seems that the dual crust system must first begin to develop before dry land can begin to be. This would not shorten our comprehension of the time involved for dry land.

F. Other support for separating the fulfillment from the fiat day.

It is very interesting to look back and find that Hugh Capron did have other support in the writings of predecessors who were saying the same thing from a slightly different angle, predecessors who had not crystallized clearly the fiat day as has Capron. Here are five who see internal evidence for the commands not being fulfilled immediately, and undoubtedly there must be others:

Dr. James G. Murphy, 1863, a giant of commentators on Genesis One (although he did not specialize on creation):

There is therefore a sequence in the order of time. In a chain of events, the narrative follows the order of occurrence. Collateral chains of events must of necessity be recorded in successive paragraphs. (emphasis ours). The first paragraph carries on one line of incidents to a fit resting place. The next may go back to take up the record of another line. Hence a new paragraph beginning with a conjoined verb is to be connected in time, not with the last sentence in the preceding one, but with some sentence in the preceding narrative more or less distant from its terminating point. Even a single verse may be a paragraph in itself referring to a point of time antecedent to the preceding sentence. (p. 39)
(Dr. Murphy was professor of Hebrew in the Presbyterian College, Belfast.)

Tayler Lewis, 1869, comes the closest to Capron in his editorial remarks in the English translation of the John Peter Lange commentary, “Genesis”:

Each day, as a beginning by itself contains the incipient powers and elements of its peculiar work, but does not exhaust those energies. (emphasis ours). The light is still evolving in the second day; the fluids are still parting in the third; the firmament, though having its auroral light before, is becoming still brighter in the fourth; vegetable and animal life are coming to still greater perfection in the fifth and sixth.
Fr. H. Reusch, pre-1876, declares the following to be “exegetically admissible”:
The succession of these single acts need not be looked upon as chronological in the sense that one moment of creative activity was completely closed, and one period was thus ended before the realization of a new moment, and with it a new period, had begun. It would be quite possible to suppose that historically or chronologically the realization of the separate moments took place simultaneously;(emphasis ours) for instance, the separation of the waters and land might have actually extended over the time of the creation of the first plants and the first animals and the creation of vegetation over the creation of the first animals. (p. 186)
(Dr. Reusch was professor of Catholic theology at the University of Bonn.)

Augustus Hopkins Strong, 1886, is also close to Capron’s concept:

If it be said that fruit-trees could not have been created on the third day, we reply that since the creation of the vegetable kingdom was to be described at one stroke and no mention of it was to be made subsequently, this is the proper place to introduce it and to mention its main characteristic forms. (p. 194)
(Dr. Strong is well-known for his text, Systematic Theology, and was president and professor of Biblical Theology at Rochester Theological Seminary.)

Samuel Colcord Bartlett, 1897, former president of Dartmouth College:

This marvelous brevity necessitates. . . . (1) Omission of details, exceptions, modifications, in its broad and characterizing outlines; (2) a dismissal of facts once narrated, and a continuous forward movement, the narrative marking each new stage and then passing to the next without reverting or alluding to the former—although they move on together;(emphasis ours) (3) the announcement of each new movement, law, order of things, therefore, in its totality or completeness.
(Dr. Bartlett also served as professor of Biblical literature in the Chicago Theological Seminary.)

One commentator since Capron, Albertus Pieters, 1947, quotes Dr. Bartlett and adds:

There is in this chapter, as I understand it, a mingling of the logical and chronological orders; so that each new subject is taken up in its proper chronological order, and the discussion on it is completed; but the writer does not intend us to understand that everything related to it was completed before the first stage in the next process began.
(Albertus Pieters was professor of Bible and missions at Western Theological Seminary, Michigan.)

Dr. Murphy arrived at his observation stated above through a very deliberate process. Under his discussion of the genealogy of Genesis 5 he reports:

The writer, according to custom, completes the life of one patriarch before he commences that of the next; and so the first event of the following biography is long antecedent to the last event of the preceding one. This simply and clearly illustrates the law of Hebrew narrative. (p. 191)
Previously in his introduction to Genesis he established the same concept:
These great lines of narrative, in like manner, include minor lines, whenever the history falls into several threads, which must all be taken up one after another, in order to carry on the whole concatenation of events. These come out in paragraphs, and even shorter passages, which necessarily overlap one another in point of time. The striking peculiarity of Hebrew composition is aptly illustrated by the successive links in the genealogy of the fifth chapter, where the life of one patriarch is brought to a close before that of the next is taken up, though they actually run parallel for the greater part of the predecessor’s life. It furnishes a key to much that is difficult in the narrative. (p. 23)
All of this is important for Capron’s thesis for two reasons. Firstly, because it shows Capron’s thesis to have near relatives and thus was not a wild idea contrary to the flow of ideas at the time. This promotes credibility which should have bode well for its survival. It remains inexplainable that Capron did not come to Ramm’s attention in his literature searches for “The Christian View of Science and Scripture” (1954), a book that has grown to the stature of a classic. Secondly, the particular assist from Murphy now establishes Capron’s thesis as having unparalleled credentials from within scripture itself. The genealogy pattern added to the explanatory interpretation puts fiat days beyond the reach of Occam’s razor .

It is interesting that the concept of fiat days has appeared in a 1978 book by Dr. Alan Hayward (though first described to him in the 1950’s by the late Peter Watkins): “. . .perhaps the ‘days’ were six occasions on which God issued edicts, or statements of intent.” Hayward has expanded upon this suggestion in a 1985 book on creation and evolution. In it the details of the days differ enough from Capron’s to constitute a new option. He proposes that the days are divine proleptic days and from God’s point of view they are “sure” and literal, being based upon the absolute reality of God’s prophetic utterances. They make up a “divine week” and the fulfillments follow later in earth-time. In building up to the concept of fiat days, Hayward does a very interesting thing, quite independently of any influence from Capron—he makes a strong case for the “parenthetical” nature of the information that follows each of the fiats in Genesis One—and this is identical to Capron’s term “explanatory information!” So, having arrived at the same conclusion by a different route, he gives significant credence to this explanatory characterization of information in the text of Genesis One.

In order to be thorough it may be well to post an important principle of rightly dividing Genesis One. In scripture God accommodates man’s level of understanding. This is true in spiritual matters as well as in references to “space and time.” The message of redemption is primary, so scripture seems to speak to man in terms of his limited knowledge of space and time, so as to go on to redemption without delay. This poses the question, “To what extent may a modern interpretation of Genesis One differ from that of early times?” We now have two experiences recorded in history that read on this question. Scripture accommodated man’s flat-earth model, yet later we reassessed the words to confirm that they do not teach a flat earth. And the earth became round. Scripture accommodated man’s earth-centered universe, yet later we reassessed the words to confirm that they do not teach a geocentric universe. And the earth became a planet. So it is clear that a modern interpretation of Genesis One may be different from the early understanding in matters of limited space-time knowledge. Today we tenaciously hold on to early man’s concept of time in Genesis One. Perhaps it is because we have not discovered a comfortable alternative, in spite of the pressure to do so from geology and from astronomy.

G. Capron’s conclusion, pages 192-193:

In six days God pronounced all the laws upon which the production of phenomena depends; and as those laws were (as we have seen) the only operative agents of production, the work of producing was clearly complete as soon as the laws had been pronounced. Nothing more remained to be done, but for the Deity to rest; and allow the laws which He had pronounced time to take effect, and bring into existence the various phenomena which they have produced, and are still producing today. How long an interval elapsed between the pronouncing of the laws and the first appearance of the resulting phenomena, is not stated in the Bible; and if Science avers that countless ages must have passed between the first appearance of light, and the first appearances of vegetation and animal life on our planet, she tells us nothing that is contradictory to the teaching of Religion, for Religion is simply silent on the subject.
II. COMMENT

Today we might be gun-shy of Capron’s phrase, “pronounced all the laws upon which the production of phenomena depends,” as sounding too much like periodically adding new physical laws to the system of nature that was in operation—”the heavens and the earth.” Tayler Lewis’s comment, 1855, p. 216, regarding the transitions is less alarming:

We may compare this to a stream flowing on and having its regular current of law, or regulated succession of cause and effect. Into this stream, we may say, there was dropped a new power, supernatural, yet not contra-natural, or unnatural—varying the old flow and raising it to a higher law and a higher energy, yet still in harmony with it. New causations, or new modifications of causation arise, and after the successations and steps required, be they longer or shorter, a world of vegetation is the result of this chain of causation in the one period, and through an analogous, if not similar process, an animal creation arose in another.
To logically pursue this a few steps further seems to bring us to the expectation that the miraculous inputs into the system were done so gracefully that we will never be able to detect the points of departure that produced the new results. Can we not then look forward to an eventual conclusion of the matter, that if we could have been there to fully instrument or measure nature at the time of the inputs, we would not have caught Him at work? His ways are past finding out. This realization does little for our ego, but with grace He bids us stand in awe.

As for the life “kinds,” Capron makes no issue of evolution in these two chapters, and that is very proper. Capron’s explanatory thesis highlights the fiat and the time span of the fulfillment; this leaves open the question of how subtly God has been active in bringing about the life “kinds.” The “work” of creation is to remain in the fiat for sure, the fiat is the prime mover, the system is committed to the specific ends, the results are assured, but this does not rule out the superintendence of the Holy Spirit along the way. Indeed, there is no hint in the record that the Holy Spirit was removed from “hovering over.” Bernard Ramm, 1954, understands it thus (emphasis his):

God creating fiatly and sovereignly outside of Nature now turns the task of creation over to the Holy Spirit who is inside Nature. The Spirit, the Divine Entelechy of Nature, knows what is the divine blueprint and through process working from the level of vacancy realizes the divine form or intention in Nature. If dry land is to appear, the Spirit sets those laws of geology to work which will produce dry land. If the seas are to swarm with fish the Spirit initiates whatever is necessary for that to be realized. In the process of time the Spirit working through-and-through Nature, the command of God is fulfilled. The laws of Nature, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, actualize over a period of time and through process, the plan of God.
III. EXTENSION TO INCLUDE THE CONCEPT OF NONCONSECUTIVE DAYS

To be honest in reporting on Hugh Capron, he seems to write as though the fiats were issued on consecutive days, though he makes no definitive statement to that effect. Nonetheless, his main thesis is equally valid for a second possibility that the special fiat days may have been a long time apart, and in fact some have interpreted him as having that in mind. For both possibilities, consecutive days or nonconsecutive days, partial fulfillment to the first fiat (“light”) is needed immediately to frame its day; thence the stage is set and the rest of the special fiat days may fall on any day thereafter—perhaps even an age later. Nonconsecutive days as such antedate Capron, as seen from the following commentators:

S. Miller, Esq., 1846:

But whatever construction may be put upon the words, “evening and morning,” there is little difficulty in shewing, that in the Mosaic narrative they are intended to denote only a natural night, and day, notwithstanding the many ingenious arguments at various times urged in support of a contrary position. Of these arguments, a considerable portion has been used by the supporters of a millenarian theory which it is our present purpose to discuss, and as the only explanation required for understanding this theory, is that a period of 1,000 years is supposed to have elapsed between each day of Creation, we shall at once proceed with our objections to such an interpretation of the inspired narrative. (pp. 34-35 )

The difficulties suggested in the last chapter, and others of perhaps greater weight, to the assumption that long intervals elapsed between each day of Creation, induced most of the eminent geologists who had supported it, to abandon a theory so wholly at variance with the Mosaic account. (p. 46)

These quotations are of historical value in stating that nonconsecutive days was not an obscure concept. Miller writes from the standpoint of a strong adherence to the “literal” interpretation that puts the creation of the earth into Day One (Option 2).
John O. Means, 1855:

The second explanation is, that a long interval elapsed between each of the days spoken of by Moses, during which each creation was consolidated.(emphasis ours) The time sought for is found by supposing that after the work of each day there was a vast interval, of which no mention is made, before the work of the next day. The advantage of this view is, that it assigns time enough, and distributes it among the various creations, according to the demands of geology; and, in one respect, it does no violence to the language of Moses. It takes the days as periods of twenty-four hours each. But. . . if the days were of twenty-four hours each, they must have been succeeded by other days of the same length. . . there would be no propriety in calling one the first day, and another, ages after, the second day, and another, ages beyond, the third day; or, as the Hebrew is literally, day one, day two, day three, etc.

Rev. Means seems not to have gained the perspective of the monumental character of these six days. Ordinary days graced by such very special works of God are monumental days. They may be expected to be counted off or numbered separately to the omission of intervening normal days. We today speak of “a month of Sundays” and are understood, and we do not mean thirty Sundays on consecutive days. So it should not be too strange to encounter a work-week of fiat days, depicted with no mention of ordinary days.

On this matter of aggrandizing the days, very many commentators point out that within the Hebrew is an insistence that these days were indeed very special. To honor this aspect, they traditionally turn in one of two ways. One is to make them monumental figurative days, such as God-divided days, as typified by Augustine. The other is to make them monumentally long periods of time, and Dr. MacDonald’s detailed analysis ends by turning in that direction. May we conclude more appropriately that the content makes the day—the operating agent—the fiat; perhaps in much the same way as December 25 is monumental, and Good Friday and Easter are monumental?

Fr. Reusch is perceptive in his contemplation of the merits derived from nonconsecutive days:

. . .the six days. . . may have been separated by long spaces of time; on six days the Creator interfered immediately in the development of the earth, (emphasis ours) between these days the development took its usual course; Moses mentioned the six days of divine creative activity in his narrative, but he passed over the periods of development in silence, because the former were of importance for the history of the redemption, but the latter only for the history of nature. (p. 188)
Reusch is uncomfortable with the consecutive numbering of the days if they were separated, much the same as Rev. Means above.

Robert C. Newman is probably the most recent author to teach the concept of nonconsecutive days. In his treatment of Genesis One he also constructs his time line diagram with prominent overlap in the fiat fulfillments. (Dr. Newman is professor of New Testament, Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pa.)

Other references to nonconsecutive days may be found in G. B. Pianciani, S. R. Driver, Griffith Thomas, H. W. Maunder, J. P. Wiseman, and D. A. England—all listed under References.

IV. EXTENSION TO INCLUDE THE CONCEPT OF “COMPLETION DAYS”

Had Hugh Capron taken time to type Genesis One using only the narrative proper, he would have made another observation, born out of a quest for literalness. Day one could not have been a fiat day, for that very first command needs to have been issued in the darkness of verse two. This means that “and there was light” must be moved up to become part of the narrative proper, thus day one marks the time when adequate daylight has developed to satisfy the command. So the day at that point constitutes a “completion” day. Making this adjustment produces two new interpretations, “one completion day and five fiat days,” and the same schedule on nonconsecutive days. Thus there are four options fostered by Hugh Capron’s insight regarding the explanatory information. And at this point one could wonder, how literal do we need to be?

Having the above extensions begs the question about all six of the days being completion days. Forty years after Capron that question is answered in writing by J. Barton Payne, 1962: “Each day would then indicate a normal, twenty-four hour period, by the time of the arrival of which, the major phenomena which God had been creating since the previously mentioned day, had at length come into being.” And Payne sees these days as nonconsecutive.

V. CONCLUSIONS

In the final analysis, Hugh Capron has made a unique contribution. The fine-line distinction is the crystallization of the “fiat day” which is a solar day distinguished by a fiat of God, and the fulfillment comes later. This not only harmonizes well with the data of geology, but he has shown that it has good rationale in the interpretation of scripture.

Capron’s explanatory interpretation firmly attaches four new options to our list of possible understandings of Genesis One, combinations of fiat days and completion days, consecutive and nonconsecutive. All of these options have these features:

A. Literal evening and morning days.
B. Six work or input days.
C. Literary correctness with Exodus 20:11: “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas, and all that is in them.”
D. A style of the six-day record in keeping with “the law of Hebrew narrative,” which is most clearly typified in the genealogy of Genesis 5.
E. Latitude for geological time for the fulfillments to be completed.
F. Latitude for geology to define the overlapping of the fulfillments.
We can be more specific about the place of these options among the total list of those published; see Appendix II.

VI. WRAP-UP

This has been a “20-20 hindsight” recapitulation of Capron’s thesis, and we, the Bible believing community, need to soberly adjust our approach to it. The Pythagoreans seem to have been first with a concept that the earth was round; “these ideas were vague, they were mixed with absurdities” (White). But as it turned out, their ideas would reward abundantly all future consideration to be given them. Capron’s suggestion is much better founded, so the least we should do is to keep it under consideration to become adequately familiar with the options and their possibilities.

Dr. Strong expressed his wholesome attitude by giving this preface to the option that seemed most satisfactory to him:

Before explaining this in detail, we would premise that we do not hold this or any other future scheme of reconciling Genesis and geology to be a finality. Such a settlement of all the questions involved would presuppose not only a perfect science of the physical universe, but also a perfect science of hermeneutics. It is enough if we can offer tentative solutions which represent the present state of thought upon the subject. Remembering, then, that any such scheme of reconciliation may speedily be outgrown without prejudice to the truth of the Scripture narrative, we present the following as an approximate account of the coincidences between the Mosaic and the geological records. . . . (p. 194)
There is reason for deep humility when we realize we have not yet uncovered a unifying interpretation of the first chapter of the Bible. In fact, the normal attitude is that we have given up on the possibility, while at the same time we admit that a unifying explanation exists—to be known ultimately and in His time. Meanwhile, Proverbs 25:2 provides us with a search warrant and a mandate:
It is the glory of God
to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter
is the glory of kings.

REFERENCES

Bartlett, Samuel Colcord, 1897, The Veracity of the Hexateuch (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co.) 232-33.

Capron, Fredrick Hugh, 1902, The Conflict of Truth (London: Hodder & Stoughton) 169-99.

Cassuto, Umberto, 1972, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Part One. From Adam to Noah (Jerusalem: The Magness Press) 33. First published in Hebrew in 1944; in English in 1961.

Driver, S. R., 1904, The Book of Genesis Westminster Commentaries (London: Methuen) 24.

England, Donald A., 1972, A Christian View of Origins (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House) 110.

Hayward, Alan, 1979, God Is (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 196-97. Also issued in 1983 in paperback as Does God Exist? Science Says ”Yes” (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

Hayward, Alan, 1985, Creation and Evolution (London: Triangle).

Lewis, Tayler, 1869, in John Peter Lange, Genesis (New York: Charles Scribner) 134.

Lewis, Tayler, 1855, The Six Days of Creation (Schenectady: G. Y. Van Debogert).

MacDonald, Donald, 1856, The Biblical Doctrine of Creation and the Fall (Edinburgh: Thomas Constable) 96-101. (Reprinted: Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1984).

Maunder, E. Walter, 1914, “The First Chapter of Genesis,” Faith and Thought, Journal of the Victoria Institute, London, Vol. XLVI.

Means, John O., 1855, “Narrative of the Creation in Genesis,” Bibliotheca-Sacra, March-April, 116-17.

Miller, S., 1846, Scriptural Evidences of Creation (London: Seely, Burnside & Seely) 34-35, 46.

Murphy, James G., 1863, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).

Newman, Robert C. and Eckelmann, Herman J., Jr., 1977, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press) 64-65, 74, 83-84.

Payne, J. Barton, 1962, The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 136.

Pianciani, Giovanni B., 1862, Cosmogonia Naturale Comparata Col Genesi (Rome) 35-38.

Pieters, Albertus, 1947, Notes on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 38.

Ramm, Bernard, 1954, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968, 7th printing) 116.

Reusch, Fr. H., 1886, Nature and the_Bible, Vol. I (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark). English translation of the fourth German edition of 1876.

Strong, Augustus Hopkins, 1902, Systematic Theology (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son). Preface was in 1876 and the first edition in 1886.

Thomas, W. H. Griffith, 1953, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 32. The text was written before 1924.

Whiston, William, 1696, A New Theory of the Earth (London: R. Roberts) 89-91. (Reprinted: New York: Arno Press, 1978). Now distributed by Ayer Co., Salem, NH.

White, Andrew Dickson, 1896, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton & Co.) 91.

Wiseman, D . J., 1977, Clues to Creation in Genesis (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott) 123. A revised version, originally published in two volumes, entitled New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis (1936) and Creation Revealed in Six Days (1948) by J. P. Wiseman.

Young, Davis A., 1977, Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House) 115-17.

Young, Davis A., 1982, Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 35.


APPENDIX I

GENESIS ONE WITH EXPLANATORY INFORMATION
ENCLOSED IN PARENTHESES AND INDENTED

Hugh Capron’s contribution that points out “the explanatory information” is a giant step in the understanding of Genesis One, and is valid regardless of the particular preference one has for the fulfillments or for the days. The following presents the text (NIV) of the six days with the explanatory information indented and enclosed in parentheses.

DAY ONE

3  And God said, “Let there be light,”
    and there was light.
        (4 God saw that the light was good,
        and he separated the light from the darkness.
        5 God called the light “day”
        and the darkness he called “night.”)
    And there was evening,
    and there was morning — the first day.
DAY TWO
6  And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the
    waters to separate water from water.”
        (7 So God made the expanse
        and separated the water under the expanse
        from the water above it.
        And it was so.
        8 God called the expanse “sky.”)
    And there was evening,
    and there was morning — the second day.
DAY THREE
9  And God said, “Let the water under the sky
    be gathered to one place,
    and let dry ground appear."
        (And it was so.
        10 God called the dry ground “land,”
        and the gathered waters he called “seas.”
        And God saw that it was good.)
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation:
    seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
    that bear fruit with seed in it,
    according to their various kinds.”
        (And it was so.
        12 The land produced vegetation:
        plants bearing seed according to their kinds
        and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according
        to their kinds.
        And God saw that it was good..)
13 And there was evening,
and there was morning — the third day.
DAY FOUR
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of
    the sky to separate the day from the night,
    and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days
    and years,
15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky
to give light on the earth.”
        (And it was so.
        16 God made two great lights —
        the greater light to govern the day
        and the lesser light to govern the night.
        He also made the stars.
        17 God set them in the expanse of the sky
        to give light on the earth,
        18 to govern the day and the night,
        and to separate light from darkness.
        And God saw that it was good.)
19 And there was evening,
and there was morning — the fourth day.
DAY FIVE
20 And God said, “Let the waters teem with living creatures,
    and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky,”
        (21 So God created the great creatures of the sea
        and every living and moving thing with which the water teems,
        according to their kinds ,
        and every winged bird according to its kind.
        And God saw that it was good.
        22 God blessed them and said,
        “Be fruitful and increase in number
        and fill the water in the seas,
        and let the birds increase on the earth.”)
23 And there was evening,
and there was morning — the fifth day.
DAY SIX
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures
    according to their kinds:
    livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and
    wild animals, each according to its kind.”
        (And it was so.
        25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds,
        the livestock according to their kinds,
        and all creatures that move along the ground
        according to their kinds.
        And God saw that it was good.)
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our
    likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea
    and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all
    the earth, and over all the creatures that move along
    the ground.”
            (27 So God created man in his own image,
                    in the image of God he created him;
                        male and female he created them.
        28 God blessed them and said to them,
        “Be fruitful and increase in number;
        fill the earth and subdue it.
        Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the
        air and over every living creature that moves on
        the ground,”
        29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing
        plant on the face of the whole earth
        and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.
        They will be yours for food.
DAY SIX (continued)
        30 And to all the beasts of the earth
        and all the birds of the air
        and all the creatures that move on the ground —
        everything that has the breath of life in it
        I give every green plant for food.”
        And it was so.
        31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.)
And there was evening,
and there was morning — the sixth day.


APPENDIX II

CAPRON’ S OPTIONS CATEGORIZED
AMONG OTHER OPTIONS THAT ARE PUBLISHED

To properly evaluate Capron’s options we need to see them in perspective along with the other options of record. In the last 300 years there have been upwards of two dozen options proposed by those who are concerned for an agreement between THE BOOK OF GOD’S WORDS and THE BOOK OF GOD’S WORKS. In the diagram and explanation below, these all fall into seven boxes, with the main division between these being whether the fiats were fulfilled immediately or progressively.




Box EM. “Early-Man Understanding.” Our common approach to get at this perspective is to formulate our first impression upon reading Genesis One. This is not enough. As we read we must also drop all modern knowledge of science in order to think like early man with his preconceptions of time and space; his space was relatively near at hand we know because of his flat-earth perspective, and his time was no doubt relatively immediate. This box represents the BASIC interpretation of Genesis One; 4 the rest, except for Box SC, contain proposed extensions or adaptations of the early-man lesson. These accomodate the development of our knowledge of THE BOOK OF GOD’S WORKS.

Box SC. “Scientific Creation.” The title to this box comes from the option that receives the most visibility today. All of these options are generated by reading back Exodus 20:11 into Genesis One. “Scientific Creation” was coined and popularized by the Institute for Creation Research in California.

Box A. For the options in this box, the earth is no longer seen as having a solitary existence until command five brings about the sun-moon-stars. Rather, cloud cover obscures direct view of the sun-moon-stars until the break-up of the cover exposes their existence. 5  The subsequent boxes each build upon the previous box.

Box B. At the suggestion of age from the study of the fossil record, one response was to insert an indefinite time span before the status verse, Genesis 1:2. This box contains at least three options, the most famous of which is the Restitution Theory (Chalmers, 1814).

Box C. These options add indefinite time to the eight moves of creation by viewing the days as nonconsecutive:

One thousand years between the days (pre-1846)
Indefinite time between the days (Pini, pre-1811)
Box D. These options add indefinite time to the eight moves of creation by recourse to age-days; of the five options in this box the following two are the most recent and emphasize overlap in the moves in accordance with the fossil record: 6
Overlapping age-days
Fullest development overlapping age-days (Young, 1977)
Box E. These options are unique. This is the only box in the diagram wherein the fulfillments to the eight commands are viewed as not being confined within the days. This allows the days to be solar days while allowing indefinite time for the moves. There are over ten of these options. For starters here are five:
Days of revelation (Miller, 1862)
Command-input days (Capron, 1902; Hayward, 1978, 1985)
Nonconsecutive command-input days (Capron, 1902)
Nonconsecutive work-completion days (Payne, 1962)
Nonconsecutive opening days (Newman, 1977)

NOTES

1 This is an extension of a paper, “Hugh Capron’s Unique Concept for Genesis One vs. Time—c. 1902,” presented at the August 1984 annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, Miami University, Miami, Ohio.
2 Author of The Conflict of Truth,The Anatomy of Truth, The Anatomy of Science, The Antiquity of Man, and The Highway to Heaven and the Byway to Nowhere. He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Geological Society and the Linnean Society.
3 Scriptural quotations, except within direct quotations from commentators, are from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1978 by the New York International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
4 There are records from early-man times of interpretations other than literal. These are based upon allegory. Reformation theology sounded the death knell to allegory, or at least made it clear that the literal understanding must be adequately resolved before making excursions into other planes .
5 There are three additional published options that fall ahead of those in Box A. These have minor variations concerning the point of creation for the sun and the earth.
6 Perhaps as a carry-over from the concept of instantaneous fulfillments, the first day-age options were though of as a chain of eight moves, each move being completed before the next begins.
 
 

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