The Archetypal Week: A Defense of the Analogical Day View

By the Rev. Peter J. Wallace

April 9, 2002

One sentence definition (from the PCA report):

The "days" are God's work-days, which are analogous, and not necessarily identical, to our work days, structured for the purpose of setting a pattern for our own rhythm of rest and work.

Definition of analogous: similarity between things that are different in nature.

The analogical day view has grown out of the conviction that previous views on the nature of the days of creation have not been sufficiently grounded theologically or hermeneutically. It attempts to draw on the strengths of the other views and bring them together. With the 24-hour view, the analogical view insists that the text is presenting the days sequentially, and agrees with its emphasis on the Sabbath. The analogical view, however, sides with E. J. Young's exegesis of yom, and is in general agreement that the text does not specify the length of the days of creation. But neither the 24-hour view nor E. J. Young's view seem to understand the theological significance of the days of creation. The Framework view is attempting to focus on that theological significance-but confuses and complicates the issue with its forced dischronologization.

The fundamental question is whether the nature of the creation days is identical to the days we experience. Our days are characterized by the rising and setting of the sun. A "day" is defined as the period between one sunrise and the next (or one sunset and the next). So the nature of our days is entirely bound up with the existence of the sun. During the first three days of creation, there was no sun. Therefore we must affirm that the nature of those three days was fundamentally different from our days. They are not identical; they are analogous. (Actually, since the framework view believes that the sun was created on day one-the framework view is the only one which could claim that they are identical in nature to our days).

Genesis does not suggest that there is any qualitative difference between days 1-3 and days 4-7. Days 1-3 have evenings and mornings just like days 4-6. But since there is no sun, evening and morning themselves cannot be seen as identical to our evenings and mornings. You may have heard people say that "evening and morning" means a 24-hour day. I have done a study on the usage of these words in Scripture, and I was shocked to discover that nowhere in Scripture do the Hebrew words for evening and morning mean a full 24-hour day. In the 23 instances where evening and morning are used in that order, the only time referent is the period of darkness from just before sunset to just after sunrise. Evening and morning refers to that period when man does not labor. Indeed when Psalm 55:17 wishes to speak of a 24-hour day, it says, "evening and morning and noon"-because the psalmist understood that evening and morning does not include the daylight hours.

So far, I haven't said anything more than E. J. Young. But what I want to do now is integrate our view of the creation days into our theology. Unfortunately much of the evangelical church has rooted its view of creation in a set of hermeneutical assumptions that stem from an Enlightenment concept of hermeneutics rather than a biblical concept of hermeneutics. The fundamental question in the Reformed churches today is this question of hermeneutics. Where will we learn our methods of biblical interpretation? Will we learn them from the apostles, or from another source?

The analogical view of the creation days is deeply rooted in a long tradition of biblical interpretation that traces its heritage back through the Reformed tradition, through the early Fathers, to the apostolic method of reading the Old Testament. This interpretive tradition is well summarized in our Confession of Faith 7.5:

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

The whole of the OT, according to our Confession, points to Christ. I do not have time in this brief presentation to demonstrate the testimony of the Patristic and Reformed tradition on this subject, so I will move straight to the Scriptures-and straight to the point.

Christ and his apostles use an analogical method of interpreting the Old Testament-even with respect to time. I'll use something that is hopefully a non-controversial example. In Matthew 4, after his baptism, Jesus goes out into the wilderness and spends forty days fasting, and being tempted by the devil. The temptations he endures echo the temptations of Israel in the wilderness-and Jesus' replies come from Deuteronomy 6-8, suggesting that Jesus is the true Israel-the one who will succeed where Israel failed. The forty days fasting echoes Israel's forty years in the wilderness. Matthew shows that Jesus recapitulates Israel's history-not in identical fashion, but in analogous fashion. Types, by their very nature, are analogous to the reality-not identical to it.

Whenever men are called to imitate God, this analogical understanding is present. The creation account itself teaches us this. Man is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Man is not identical to God-man is analogical to God. Cornelius Van Til has pointed out that our knowledge is likewise analogical to God's knowledge and not identical to it.

For this reason, Christians must also believe in two levels of knowledge, the level of God's knowledge which is absolutely comprehensive and self-contained, and the level of man's knowledge which is not comprehensive but is derivative and re-interpretative. Hence we say that as Christians we believe that man's knowledge is analogical of God's knowledge.(1)

With all this in view, I would like to suggest that we cannot view the creation days as identical to our days. We also cannot view them as entirely dissimilar from our days. They should be viewed as analogical for the following reasons:

1) as we have seen, since there was no sun or moon for three of them, and our days are defined by such, therefore they cannot be identical-but since they have evenings and mornings we can see that our days are analogical to God's work days.

2) since the seventh day has no end, they cannot be identical-but since they are given as the pattern for our work and rest, they function as the archetype to which our days are analogous.

The seventh day has no evening and morning. We do not need to speculate as to the reason for this. I suggested earlier that we need to learn our hermeneutics from the NT. Hebrews 4:3-5 gives us a lesson as it explains why the seventh day has no end:

"For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works;' and again in this place: 'They shall not enter My rest.'"

God's seventh-day rest has continued from the foundation of the world. The people of God are called to enter that rest. The reason why Genesis 2 does not say that there was an evening and a morning, the seventh day, is because God's seventh day did not end. Indeed, by positing a probationary period after which man was to enter God's rest, Reformed theology has understood that this is implicit in the very covenant that God makes with Adam. Entrance into God's rest is equivalent to eternal life.

Jesus also affirms this when he says that "My father has been working until now, and I have been working" (John 5:17). God has entered his sabbath rest-and yet he continues to work. God does not continue a pattern of six days of work and one day of rest. Jesus is pointing out to the Jews that God's seventh day rest is perfectly consistent with the work of redemption.

But if God's seventh day has continued from the foundation of the world, then it is certainly not identical to our days. Certainly it is not 24-hours long. So we see that days 1-3 and day 7 are certainly different in nature to our days, which suggests that our week is analogous to the creation week-and not identical.

In order to get at the theology of creation properly we must understand the relationship between heaven and earth. "Heaven is your throne, and earth is your footstool." Throughout Scripture the earthly is portrayed as a picture of the heavenly-or as something derived from the heavenly. Here are some examples:

1. Man is created in the image of God, and particularly, the image of the Son (Genesis 1:26; Colossians 1:15)

2. Man's work in ordering and ruling the creation is a picture of God's own rule (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8; Romans 8:19-21)

3. The earthly tabernacle is a picture of the heavenly temple (Exodus 25:9; 2 Chronicles 5-7; Hebrews 8:5)

4. The earthly sacrifices are pictures of the heavenly sacrifice, namely, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Leviticus 1-7; John 1:29; Revelation 5). Animal sacrifices were of an entirely different order than the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But they are analogous to his sacrifice because they were similar in using the shedding of blood to remove sin.

5. David's throne is a picture of the heavenly throne, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 45:6; Psalm 89:36; Acts 2:30; Revelation 5)

6. Our weekly Sabbath is a picture of God's seventh-day rest and Christ's entrance into that rest on the first day of the new creation week (Exodus 20:8-11; Luke 23:55-24:1; John 20:1, 19, 26; Hebrews 4)

In no case is the earthly shadow to be understood as identical to the heavenly archetype (pattern). No one would imagine that man is identical to God, or that the earthly tabernacle is identical to the heavenly temple. Instead, the earthly is analogous to the heavenly (which means that the earthly is similar to the heavenly, but not identical to it). The earthly is patterned after the heavenly in order that man may truly live before God. As Solomon put it: "Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple which I have built!" (2 Chronicles 6:18). And yet, Solomon also says "I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever" (2 Chronicles 6:2). Solomon understood that his temple was truly a place for God to dwell, but he did not imagine that somehow God could be contained by his earthly dwelling. Rather, Solomon recognized that the earthly temple could only be a faint picture of the heavenly temple.

Likewise, our earthly Sabbath was designed as a picture of God's heavenly Sabbath. In Exodus 20, shortly before giving Moses the heavenly pattern for the earthly tabernacle, God commands his people to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work....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" (Exodus 20:8, 9, 11). Here man's work is compared to God's work, and man's rest is compared to God's rest. Neither is intended to be understood as identical. Rather, an analogy is intended. Man's six days of labor are to imitate God's six days of labor, and man's seventh-day rest is to imitate God's seventh-day rest. If you insist on the identity of this, then man should work for six days, and then rest for the remainder of his life! The pattern is not one of identity, but analogy.

The question is what is God's intention in giving us this pattern? Again we need to see this in terms of overall biblical teaching:

What is the temple FOR? The heavenly temple is where God's glory dwells. It is also where the heavenly sacrifice is brought. All that occurs in the earthly temple should reflect the heavenly archetype.

What is the throne FOR? It is where God reigns over all. It is where God (and now the Lamb) exercises dominion. All that occurs on the earthly throne should reflect the archetype.

What are days FOR? The six archetypal days are where God's creative work is accomplished. All that occurs on the earthly six days should reflect the archetype. Just as the creation days consisted of a full measure of God's work, even so, earthly days should consist of a full measure of human work. And just as the archetypal seventh day consists of God's rest, even so, we ought to rest on our seventh days, which are now the first day of the week because Christ, the Second Adam, has truly entered God's seventh-day rest. Our rest is now not merely an anticipation of rest, but a participation in that rest. (And this is why we celebrate our Sabbath on the first day of the week, because Jesus Christ rose on the first day of the new creation-it is the eighth day that the OT had promised-the "another day" that Hebrews 4 insists was necessary).

In all of these analogies, heaven is the center. The throne of God is the center of reality. All of creation participates in that reality through types and images-through similarity. But we are not forever lost in the murky shadows! In Christ, the reality has come. Paul reminds us that matters of food and drink, feasts, new moons and sabbaths are but shadows cast backwards in history by Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). God created all things good so that they would point us to him. But created things can never be more than types and shadows. This is why the apostles taught us that our citizenship is in heaven; that our life is hidden with Christ, that we are seated in Christ at the right hand of God. For in Jesus Christ, one has come who is not merely analogous to the Father, but is of the same substance. This is why we are called into the throne room of God in worship. This is why the Spirit must raise us up to heaven to partake of Christ's body and blood. And this is why Peter tells us that we participate in the divine nature (II Peter 1:4)! Since the fall, the creation could only exist in shadows until it was brought into the full light of God's glorious presence in Christ


With respect to the days of creation, Hebrews teaches us this about the seventh day, when it affirms that we must still enter God's rest. The seventh day will not end until our Lord returns to bring us into that rest. Then will come the days of our God and of the Lamb when there will be no sun, for the Lamb will be our light. The seventh day will finally end in the brilliance of eternal glory as the throne of God becomes in our experience what is already is in truth--the center of reality!

Objections (real questions I have received):

1. In Gen 1 a set of things are made by God. A day is one of those things. If the day is not really a day as we know it then what about the rest of the things in the set?

Genesis 1 never says that God made the days. The days are the structure in which all things are created. This suggests that time is merely the relation between events, and not a thing in itself. God did not create a being called "day." "Day" is the name of light (Genesis 1:5). (See the following essay on "Day One.")

2. Leaving aside the question of the days, do you think that God really spoke, separated, and formed the earth as it says in Genesis one? Are these "figures" of speech or "anthropomorphic" ways of describing something that remains incomprehensible to us as creatures?

Yes and yes. Yes, I believe that God really spoke, separated, and formed, and yes these are figures of speech which refer to God's creative action.

A useful parallel is Hebrews 1:1-4. God has spoken in his Son. What has he spoken? Is this referring to Jesus' teaching while he was on earth? No! The content of God's speech in Christ consists of his sacrifice for our sins, sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty, and receiving the Most Excellent Name (v3-4). The explicit parallel to creation and providence is made in v2-3.

The Son continually upholds all things by the word of His power (v3). We see the effects of this in the regularity of nature. But does this mean that Christ was continually "speaking" even while he was walking silently along the road, sleeping on the ground, etc.? Certainly not in any literal sense! Yet he upheld the universe nonetheless.

Do you really believe that "God really spoke, separated, and formed the earth as it says in Genesis one." Do you really believe that the blue thing up there is a solid dome which holds back the cosmic sea? I suspect that you either believe that this refers to a literal dome billions of light-years away, or else is a figurative reference to the atmosphere--which looks like a solid dome to the common sense of men. Am I wrong?

So yes, I do believe that there is an "anthropomorphic" aspect to the creation account, if you insist on using the word. Can you tell me what God's voice sounds like? How did he separate and form the earth? I do not know. I believe that God condescends to us finite creatures and speaks in our language to reveal things which our minds cannot comprehend. This is certainly true in many other areas. He wants us to understand his love--so he gives us marriage and parents as figures. He wants us to understand his wrath--so he gives us volcanoes and hurricanes as figures. His Word is full of such figures. It cannot be otherwise because language consists of symbols. Yet I affirm a reality beyond language--a Word behind all words--as Augustine would say.

This is not the same thing as some "noumenal" realm, as you call it. I do not divorce the linguistic from the historical--nor the noumenal from the phenomenal. Nonetheless I do affirm that our knowledge is finite, derivative, and ectypal, while God's knowledge is infinite, original, and archetypal. Therefore God's revelation is inherently an accommodation to the creature. The creation account tells us what God did. He spoke, separated, formed, etc. In the same way, God spoke in Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost, establishing the new creation. Creation and new creation are historical events which include a whole lot of symbolism.

I think that Proverbs 8 and Job 38 have a lot more wisdom than any of us when it comes to how God created the world. Nowhere in Scripture (outside of Genesis 1-2) do the biblical authors emphasize the literal details of the creation account. Everywhere in Scripture they expand and explore the images and symbols of the creation account. Certainly they do not reject its historicity--on the contrary, they assume it! But they understand that the creation account is not primarily given for scientific, but for theological reasons. How often do we talk about the morning stars singing at the creation?

3. Are you saying that God is incapable of making a universe, or having made this one, in six days? There is nothing inherently requiring an anthropomorphic interpretation in God's making all things of nothing in the space of six days.

Well, is it anthropomorphic to say that God rules from his throne or dwells in his temple? I don't think so. Our thrones and temples are designed to reflect heavenly realities. In the same way, God's creation days are the reality which our earthly days are to reflect. I am not saying that it is impossible that God could have (or even did) create the world in six "ordinary" days. I am merely saying that Scripture does not specify the length of those days, and that a biblical understanding of the relationship between the earthly and the heavenly suggests that the question is irrelevant.

4. I will grant that Genesis 1 describes the archetypal week, but I would argue that Genesis 1 also describes the FIRST WEEK of the created order, and as such consists of ordinary days. What is it that forces you to go beyond such an interpretation?

1) Because under such a view, the heavenly week is necessarily identical to the earthly week, which is never true in any biblical archetype. It becomes merely a prototype. The very nature of your description expresses this: "First Week." You reduce the creation week to the status of the "First Adam" who may have a been a prototype of Christ, but is hardly an archetype! The First Adam is not the pattern for the Second Adam. Rather the First Adam was created in the image of the Second Adam. Therefore the First Week would then need to point to something greater than itself, just like the First Adam did.

2) But Hebrews 4 tells us that the seventh day continues until the present. The Creation Week is not merely the First is THE week. It is that to which all earthly weeks point. It is the goal of all earthly weeks that we might enter into that seventh-day rest of God. The Fourth Commandment insists that Israel had to rest on the seventh day because God himself rested on the seventh day. The whole of the book of Joshua is permeated by the language of God giving his people rest-which is why Hebrews feels it necessary to remind us that Joshua did not give the people rest in any ultimate sense. It was only a picture of that rest which Jesus gives us. Therefore to say that the creation week is merely the First Week is to say that it is not actually the pattern, but is itself pointing to something else. Yet Exodus 20, Hebrews 4, and every other reference to the Sabbath and rest makes it clear that the goal is for man to enter God's rest.

5. I'm having a real tough time understanding your archetypical days. Are they:

1. Six 24 hour days that are the model for man's work?

2. Six days of immense length than are the model for man's work?

3. Six "god-days" that we can say nothing about except for the fact that they form the model for mans work?

4. A literary framework that says nothing about time or order of events?

5. Six days in "god time" that have "god evenings" and "god mornings" that form the model for our own days, evenings and mornings?

None of the above, although something in between #3 and #5 might possibly get at it (God's work-days). It all hinges on understanding what "archetypal" means. If you keep in mind that I consider the heavenly temple and the heavenly throne as parallels, then you will have a clearer understanding. The archetypal (or heavenly) days are to earthly days what the heavenly throne is to the earthly throne.

Can you tell me what a heavenly throne is made of? Can you explain what a heavenly temple feels like? When you have done that, then I will be ready to explain the details of a heavenly day. There is nothing mythical about it. If you think that my heavenly, archetypal days are mythical, then you must also believe that the heavenly temple and the heavenly throne are mythical. They are the patterns and archetypes--the realities to which the earthly pictures point. If anything, they are more real than earthly days, earthly temples, and earthly thrones!

6. You seem to me to be advocating 5, and the problem I have with 5 is that then isn't God creating "god plants", a "god moon" and "god sea monsters" instead of real things and if he's not, how can you say so? God seems to create day on day 1. So it's as much a creature as the sun, fruit trees, and animals.

The Bible teaches that the heavenly things are supremely real. Can Jesus enter a heavenly temple and still offer a real sacrifice? If so, then God can create real things on a heavenly day! It sounds like you are making a gnostic division between that which is heavenly and that which is real.

7. How long ago did the Creation occur? How long did it take?

I don't know. These are questions that Scripture does not answer.

8. I don't think that the Fourth Commandment makes much sense unless Genesis 1 is a regular week of 144-hours. The analogy only works if we introduce the notion of a period of time to the notion of Dayness, and it only works if that period of time is the same as the human period of time.

But if you continue down that road, then a man should only work for six days, and then rest for the remainder of his life. Consider other biblical analogies. A temple is a place where earth and heaven meet. Jacob declared that Bethel was "the house of God and the gate of

Heaven" (Genesis 28:17) an image that Jesus calls to mind by telling the disciples in John 1 that they will see "heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51). Then Jesus promptly identifies himself as the temple (John 2:19-22). A temple is where God meets with his people. The analogy between the wood, stone, and gold of Solomon's temple and the humanity of the One greater than Solomon is not obvious. In fact, it is safe to say that the analogy does not consist in a comparison of the substance of the earthly temple and Jesus Christ. The analogy is seen through the function.

Similarly, the Days of creation are not obviously related to our days until you see the function. God worked on those days, and then rested on the seventh Day. Therefore we are to work on our six days and rest on the seventh. If we believe that animal sacrifices could be pleasing to God as types of the sacrifice of Christ, and if we believe that God's name truly dwelt in an earthly temple of wood and stone as a type of how his name now dwells in Christ and his church, then we should have no problem with the idea that the creation week and our weeks might be dissimilar in length of time!

To take the six days literally would be as faulty as thinking that animal sacrifices actually could remove sin, the Davidic king was literally sitting on God's right hand, or the earthly temple was literally God's dwelling place. Yet in various places the Old Testament states all of these things in literal terms (cf. Lev. 16, II Sam 7, I Kings 8).

9. To interpret the creation account itself as symbol seems to me to get it exactly backwards. Of what is it a symbol? You have to have the real thing before you can have the symbol of it. You have to have a REAL (24-hour) day, with evening and morning, before you can have other symbolic 'days'. You have to have REAL evening and morning, before you can have 'evening' and 'morning' used as metaphores for 'something else'. If you don't already have *literal* evening and morning, the first day, then terms like 'day', 'evening', and 'morning' have simply become meaningless - and thus they won't be able to form the basis for any future 'symbolic usage'.

This is entirely backwards! I am not arguing that the seven days of creation are the symbol. I am arguing that the earthly days which we experience are the symbol. Just as the earthly temple is a symbol of the heavenly temple; just as the Davidic throne was a symbol of Christ's throne; just as marriage is a symbol of our heavenly marriage; so also the seven day week that we know is a symbol of God's creation week (and all of human history consists of how humanity may enter God's rest, for the seventh day has not ended yet--Heb. 4:1-10). Heaven is the center; earthly events are types and figures of the Heavenly reality. As Paul said, the OT feasts and food laws were shadows; the body which casts the shadow is Christ. You sound as though you think that this world is the substance, and God gives us symbols to refer to what we already know. I am saying that God tells us that the things which we already know ARE symbols of a greater and more glorious reality.

Incidentally, this is how to avoid the liberal foolishness: they think that this world is real, and that divine things are symbols; Scripture teaches that divine things are real, and that this world is a symbol.

To sum up:

1) The Creation Week of Genesis 1 is to be understood as the archetypal week, to which all earthly weeks are to point. This has an eschatological aspect as well, since humanity enters God's Sabbath-rest on the first/eighth day of the week (resurrection/Pentecost/Lord's Day/Day of the Lord).

2) As such, there is no theological reason why the length of the creation day should matter.

1. Van Til, Cornelius, The Works of Cornelius Van Til, (New York: Labels Army Co.) 1997.