An Argument Against the Framework Hypothesis

During one of the panel discussions at the recent Ligonier Conference, R.C. Sproul, Jr. remarked that he believed the literal 6-day 24 hour view of the creation days based on sound exegetical principles. He emphasized the word “sound” in what I took to be a friendly jab at Michael Horton (who holds the Framework view), who was sitting right next to him. Horton laughed just as much as the audience did. Now, I agree with Sproul, Jr. on this one over against Horton. I believe that the exegetical evidence adduced by the Framework guys for their position admits of other explanations. I have explained this before, but I think it won’t hurt to rehearse this evidence again.

Just to remind us, the Framework view holds that the 7 days of the creation week are a non-literal but literary framework that has nothing to do with how long God actually took to create the world. So, in fact, a FH advocate could still be a young earth advocate. They tend to argue that Genesis 1 and 2 have nothing to say about the length of time God took to create the world. There are several arguments they use to support this position. Two of the most prominent are the following: 1. the statements in Genesis 2:5 concerning the lack of rain and the lack of a human being indicate that natural, not supernatural, preservation was initiated in the creation “days” of chapter 1. If there was light without the sun (as would be indicated by comparing day 1 and day 4, that would be supernatural preservation. Therefore, the FH argues, the only explanation that accounts for the natural preservation instituted by God is the non-literal interpretation. Secondly, the similarity of function of days 1 and 4 (they seem to do the same thing) are indicators that we are not to interpret the days literally.

The answer to the first argument is relatively simple: the natural preservation spoken of in verse 5 is limited to plants that are tied to human cultivation. See Keil and Delitzsch’s commentary on 2:5, where the commentary argues against the Documentary Hypothesis’ assumption of a contradiction with chapter 1, because the plants in question were not ALL plants, but only those that would not thrive without rain and human cultivation. Thus, natural preservation is certainly present in the creation week of chapter 1, but the only thing that 2:5 proves is that preservation was present in things related to human agency. It does not prove that natural preservation was present relating to all things in the created week.

The answer to the second argument concerning days 1 and 4 requires a bit of background explanation. In order to be a convincing argument for the Framework Hypothesis, the similarity of days 1 and 4 could have no other possible explanation than a non-literal interpretation of the days. If there is another possible explanation, then the similarity of days 1 and 4 ceases to be a convincing argument for the FH. I would argue that an apologetic intent explains the similarity of the days. Note, for instance, in Genesis 1:16, that Moses does not say “the sun and the moon,” but rather “the greater light and the lesser light.” The Hebrew word for “sun” is “shemesh,” which is also the name of the sun-god that ancient Near Eastern peoples worshiped. They believed that all things came from the sun, and that the sun was the source of all light. Moses, therefore, has an apologetic against the sun-worship by showing us that light originated outside of the sun. This explains not only the similarity of days 1 and 4, but also why Moses pictures light as existing independently of the sun. Only the one true God is the true source of light. Other authors have noted the apologetic intent of Genesis 1. However, no one of whom I am aware has tied the apologetic intent of chapter 1 and the order of days 1 and 4 to a rebuttal of the FH as I have done.

As a further argument against the FH, we can note the biblical-theological way in which the Bible ends: there will once again be a time when light exists apart from the light-givers. This is a hint that the order of light before lights is reversed at the end of all things. Revelation is explicit in saying that the light of the city is the Lamb. There will be no more need of sun and moon (Revelation 21:23). This is more than a hint that the book of Revelation interprets the days of Genesis as, at the very least, chronological in order, and not a mere literary framework.

Frankly, then, there is no need for the FH. It does not explain Genesis 1 and 2 any better than the literal interpretation does. Indeed, I would argue that it falls under the strictures of Occam’s razor: it is too complicated an explanation, when a simpler explanation works better. The FH has plausible arguments for it. However, as I have attempted to show, it is not forced from the text. The features of the text that the FH uses to prove its validity have equally plausible, simpler explanations.