Robert V. McCabe, M.Div., Th.M., Th.D., earned his Th.D. degree at Grace Theological Seminary in 1985 in Old Testament Languages and Literature. He joined the faculty of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983 as head of the Old Testament department, and he became Registrar in 1987. One of the OT classes he teaches at DBTS is Biblical Creationism, and he has conducted several seminars on biblical creation in local churches in the Detroit area.
I first heard about Dr Bob McCabe upon seeing a very thorough defence of a straightforward understanding of Genesis, including in-depth studies of the original Hebrew.1 So I was happy that he consented to be interviewed. The first question was the obvious one: why is Genesis important? Dr McCabe explains:
But despite this, it’s no secret that many in today’s church deny that Genesis is history. Dr McCabe explains that this has nothing to do with a sound understanding of the Bible, but is due to intimidation because “modern ‘scientific’ opinion with its ‘deep time’ assumption informs us that the earth is billions of years old.” The danger is that “there are two conflicting sources of authority for modern evangelicals: ‘science’ and the Bible.” Indeed, Dr McCabe notes that leading progressive creationist Dr Hugh Ross,2 who believes that the days of Genesis 1 were millions of years long, is a good example. He says that Ross is very up-front that “he views ‘science’ as having an equal level of authority with the Bible,” and even “refers to ‘science’ as the ‘sixty-seventh book’ of the Bible”3 and as “dual” revelation to the Bible.4
So, since Genesis should be authoritative, what does it actually mean? One very common question is, are the days of Creation Week (Genesis 1:1–2:3) normal-length days? Dr McCabe strongly affirms this, giving several reasons:
One of the most fashionable denials of a straightforward understanding of Genesis 1–11 is the ‘Framework Hypothesis’.5 This was explicitly invented so Genesis doesn’t conflict with “science”.6 Dr McCabe has also written a two-part critique of this,7,8 so he is a good one to explain it:
“The framework view asserts that the creation ‘week’ of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device, a poetic or semi-poetic device, intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one.
“In particular, they divide the six days into two parallel units of three days, with the first day corresponding to the fourth day, the second to the fifth, and the third with its two creative events to the sixth with its two creative events. Thus, the first three days supposedly form a unit that is paralleled by the last three days.”
But scholars including Dr McCabe note that the parallels are forced. E.g. the sun, moon and stars (Day 4) were in the expanse/firmament (Day 2); the sea creatures (Day 5) were to fill the seas (Day 3); while nothing on Day 6 was created for these seas. Furthermore, Dr McCabe points out that the creation account is the same sort of literature as the rest of Genesis, i.e. historical narrative, while it lacks the key features of Hebrew poetry.9 Thus Genesis should be understood as history (see further explanation, box, p. 18).
But still, some in the church claim it’s a side-issue that does no harm. Dr McCabe strongly disagrees:
Dr McCabe is especially concerned when “leaders in evangelicalism accept evolution and superimpose it on the biblical record.” He recently heard one argue that Genesis 1–2 does not prohibit evolution, so there is no need to believe in a literal Adam. But then, “was there a single human ancestor whom God actually judged for his disobedience by bringing condemnation to his posterity and a curse to the creation over which he presided (Genesis 3:19, Romans 8:19–2210)?11 If not, what is to stop anyone from denying a literal last Adam (i.e. Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:45)?”
Lastly, none of this would matter to Dr McCabe if he were not a Christian. He became one in 1969, after faithful, patient witnessing by friends which included answering objections, as he explains:
Speaking of answering objections, Bob tells us:
Thank you too, Bob, for your support and for teaching and defending the truth of biblical creation.
Some use Genesis 2:4, “In the day that God made” to argue that the days of Genesis 1:1–2:3 were not 24-hour days. But Dr McCabe is highly unimpressed, pointing out that they have totally different contexts. More technically, he explains from the Hebrew grammar:
In Genesis 2:4 יוֹם yôm is part of what I can call a grammatically bound construction. To communicate my point, I will provide a literal translation of 2:4: “in-the-day-of-making by the Lord God earth and heaven.” The five hyphenated words in this translation comprise this compound grammatical relationship. These five words involve three closely related words in the Hebrew text: an inseparable preposition (“in,” bə ) immediately attached to “day” (yôm) a construct, singular noun, and an infinitive construct (“making,” ‘āśôt). Elsewhere in the Bible, this compound bə yôm is often a Hebrew idiom for “when”, thus the verse means, “when the Lord God made the earth and heaven.1
There is more flexibility in the meaning of yôm in such bound constructions. Another example is “The day of the Lord”, another compound grammatical construction, more precisely construct-genitive relationship; however, I doubt that “day” in Genesis 2:4 is meant to be taken as a literal day. Its close relationship with its definite genitive, Yahweh, allows for the word to have a more extended use as “time”. Therefore, the use of “day” in Genesis 2:4 is not simply an example of a singular noun but it is part of a bound construction.
Many disbelievers in a historical Genesis 1–11, including Framework proponents, assert that Genesis is poetic. As noted, Dr McCabe rejects this, and explains further:
That is, one line says one thing, and the next says practically the same thing in different words. Or else the next line augments the first, or says the opposite. E.g. verses 10–11:
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they give drink to every beast of the field;
“Yet Genesis 1:1–2:3 is nothing like this. Instead, it consistently uses a grammatical device that characterizes historical literature, the waw (or vav) consecutive. This device, which usually moves the narrative forward in sequence (i.e. consecutively) occurs some 2,107 times in Genesis, averaging out to 42 times per chapter. In Genesis 1:1–2:3, while there is an absence of poetic parallelism, there are 55 waw consecutives, starting with וַיֹּאמֶר wayyo’mer (“and … said”), וַיְהִי wayehi (“and there was”), וַיַּרְא wayyar’ (“and … saw”).1 Whatever else may be said about the creation account, this grammatical device marks it as historical narrative, just as it does in the remainder of Genesis. Thus, it is our obligation to interpret the creation account as literal history just like we do the other historical narrative in the Bible.”