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If God created the sun, the moon and the stars on the fourth day, what determined day and night before that?
Thank you for your poignant question about the creation order. It shows that you have read the Bible and are taking the claims of Christianity seriously. In your question you have hit upon something that is highly debated amongst Christians today. Since LookingforGod.com represents Christians of many different theological perspectives, this answer will present both views for your consideration.
Both views believe the Genesis account to be true, but there is a debate as to what it means. The debate hinges around the word 'day'. The word day in Hebrew can mean a 24-hour day or it can mean an unspecified period of time; the same is true of English. If you said, "In King Alfred's day", you wouldn't mean a specific 24-hour day. You would be using it to refer to 'the period of time in which King Alfred lived'. The question is does 'day' in Genesis 1 mean a '24-hour day' or a 'period of time', which could even be millions of years.
Six-day creationists believe that the day is literally twenty-four hours. They would argue that because as the text mentions morning and evening they take it as literally 24 hours. Such authors would say in response to you that God created day and night without the need for a sun. There was light coming from God himself on those three days and then he created the sun to contain the light; indeed, we read that God created light before he created the sun. Since God is all-powerful, he could do anything he liked, so he created light without a sun.
Other Christians (sometimes called Progressive Creationists) think that some clues in the passage suggest that this is not to be taken literally. They point out that a 24-hour day is only possible from Day 4 onwards, so it would make more sense to see the days as periods of time. They also note that the Bible has two creation accounts (in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2). Usually when this happens in the Bible one is telling the story and the other is a song explaining the meaning of the events (for example Judges 4 and 5, Exodus 14 and 15). They note that Genesis 1 is highly poetic and doesn't seem to match with scientific evidence.
In light of all this they suspect that Genesis 1 is to be taken figuratively. They would say in answer to your question that none of these days were 24-hours. Rather the author is creating a piece of poetry to show that God carefully created an ordered universe.
Since Christians differ over this issues, you do not need to come down one way or the other if you are to become a Christian.
What all Christians agree on is this: the world shows clear marks that it was made by a creator. Just as the days of creation show a clear order (whether these are figurative or literal days), we see a certain order to creation. The laws of physics and nature still play their part day after day. There simply isn't the chaos you would expect from a world created by random-chance.
Moreover Christians agree that the world is obviously not as it was created to be. There is suffering, pain and natural disaster across the globe. This is a result of humans turning their backs on God (Genesis 3). Each human will have to stand before God and give an account for the actions they have done in ruining his perfect creation.
However, there is one man who did not sin and therefore didn't contribute to the collapse of the world we know. Jesus Christ did not do anything wrong. But he took the punishment for those who trusted in him. One day he will return and recreate the world restoring its image for those who trust in him. All Christians would encourage you to repent of your part in this wrongdoing, and trust Jesus to save you.
In summary, different Christians have different understandings of how they days relate. Yet all agree that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). Similarly, there is a need for us to repent of our sin and turn to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
I do hope this general answer to your question goes some way to helping you find peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: www.lookingforGod.com
In closing, I want to encourage you to get more involved with your local church. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question. I know they would be delighted to further answer you as well as offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey: www.lookingforgod.com/churchfinder
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world. www.lookingforgod.com/your-questions
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Genesis 1-3
- Psalm 19
*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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