What was the View of the Westminster Assembly Divines on Creation Days?

A Revision of Opinion from Massive Testimony to Overwhelming, Unrefuted, and Still Compelling Testimony; or the Score is either down to only 18-0, 15-0, 9-0, or 21-0 in favor of the classic view

David W. Hall

Following numerous challenges, interactions, and comments (Thanks especially to the constructive criticisms of Dr. William S. Barker of Westminster Theological Seminary) subsequent to my July 1998 publication of my findings, I wish to offer a slight revision. As iron sharpens iron, so hard criticism refines a thesis that will rise or fall depending on its concurrence or non-concurrence with truth. Below is my updated argument, limited to Westminster divines only (not including the numerous other contemporaries as did the earlier study), and defending how quantitatively and qualitatively compelling the view remains that their original intent was only in favor of understanding normal days for the confessional phrase "in the space of six days." Indeed, the body of evidence supporting this view is growing. Moderns may differ with their views, but it is no longer credible that their original intent is unclear.

The following members or participants in the proceedings of the Westminster Assembly left a record of their views on this subject. Since the progress of discussion will no longer focus on if the divines expressed a view, but how much weight should be given to respective testimony, I will classify the divines as explicit voting members, explicit non-voting members, implicit voting members, and implicit non-voting members. Scholars may evaluate how much relative weight should be assigned to these various groups and how much weight should be assigned to non-contemporaries. Notwithstanding, my original claim that approximately 20 divines either explicitly or implicitly left record of their preference on this matter appears to be holding up. It may even grow in quantity as more research comes to light.

Explicit Voting Members

1. John Lightfoot (5 works, only counted as one); the number of sources, including a sermon, should not be minimized in a fair search for original intent. Lightfoot affirms most succinctly in his Works: "—and in four and twenty hours it was accomplished." (2:334) One is on the weakest of historical ground to claim that Lightfoot condoned long creational periods.

Lightfoot stated publicly (certainly superior in weight to unproven private opinions that have no evidence) that, "That the world was made at equinox, all grant,—but differ at which, whether about the eleventh of March, or twelfth of September; to me in September, without all doubt. All things were created in their ripeness and maturity; apples ripe, and ready to eat, as is too sadly plain in Adam and Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit. . . . So that look at the first day of the creation, God made heaven and earth in a moment. The heaven, as soon as created, moved, and the wheel of time began to go; and thus, for twelve hours, there was universal darkness. This is called the ‘evening,’ meaning night. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and light arose in the east, and, in twelve hours more, was carried over the hemisphere; and this is called, ‘morning,’ or ‘day.’ And the evening and morning made the first natural day; twelve hours, darkness,—and twelve, light." It is correct that the divines did not attempt to settle the matter of which (if any) equinox marked creation; but they did nail down one issue with the words: "in the space of six days."

While Lightfoot advocated a different form of government than the divines, few question his ability as an OT scholar or the fact that his views on the subject of creation were compatible with other divines. In the past, it was frequently and erroneously claimed that none of the Westminster divines or contemporaries left clues about their view on this controverted subject. Leading advocates of the post-Darwin position argued that if it had been important the divines would have clumsily injected "24 hour" in the confession or catechisms; consequently, some argue, the divines had no fixed view on this issue. Such argument, however, becomes less credible when one consults other works by the divines that clearly indicate their understanding—the only one at the time—of the phrase "in the space of six days." The issue is original intent, and that may be supplied by many contemporaneous sources, both explicit and implicit.

2. John White (Commentary on Genesis 1-3): "Here, where it [yom] is distinguished from the Night, it is taken for a Civil day, that is, that part of 24 houres which is Light; but in the latter end of the verse, it signifies a Natural day, consisting of 24 houres, and includes the night too."

White also wrote, "By the Evening, we must here understand the whole night, or space between the shutting in of the light, and the dawning of the next day. . . . In the same manner runs the computation of Times, among the Hebrews to this day." (op. cit., 32) White’s use of the term "space" and his reference to "God is here represented to us, in the Creation of the world, proceeding by leisure, and taking the time of Six dayes to perform that . . ." indicates that the Westminster divines had a definite meaning for the phrase "in the space of" that was not merely a summary for large, undefined periods of time.

3. John Ley (Annotations): "This first day consisting of twenty foure howres" and "the Sabbath (being as large a day as an of the rest, and so containing twenty foure howres is measured from even to even."

Elsewhere, he wrote: "the word Day is taken for the natural day consisting of twenty foure howres, which is measured most usually from the Sun-rising to the Sun-rising; or from the Sun-setting to the Sun-setting." Ley noted that such sense was also used in Exodus 12:29, Numbers 3:13 and 8:17. Referring to other literal 24-hour periods, the view of the divines is hardly invisible. Ley and the other divines of the Annotations also followed Ussher in other matters of chronology (Cf. on Gen. 2:4).

4. George Walker. I thank Dr. Will Barker for informing me about another support that I had not discovered. Dr. Barker says, "Another Westminster Divine, George Walker, argued in his God Made Visible in His Works, or A Treatise of the External Works of God (London, 1641, pp. 44-47) that it had to be on the vernal equinox."

4a. Thomas Goodwin (The Works of Thomas Goodwin, I:520) signaled his commitment to a very literal reading, agreeing with the views of Usher, Lightfoot, Ames, Perkins, and Twisse, viz.: "And, my brethren, what is the reason that we Christians begin to reckon our time from Christ? We do not reckon from the creation; we do not say five thousand and five hundred and so many years, as it is since the creation; but we say one thousand six hundred, &c. as reckoning from Christ, for then our new world began." As an Independent at the Assembly, he indicates that agreement among Erastians (Lightfoot and Ussher), Independents (Goodwin) and Presbyterians (all others below) made this item one of the most consensual within the Assembly. It would be odd, then, to argue that with so much hearty concurrence across ecclesiastical lines, these divines did not intend to enunciate a doctrinal standard, the contrary of which was also rejected. That strong burden of proof would require massive primary documentation to indicate that the divines were offering a range of options for orthodoxy or pluralistic items, each of which was mutually correct.

5. William Twisse (First "Moderator"): The Westminster Assembly’s Prolocutor and most revered theologian, William Twisse, along with most other divines adopted Ussher’s chronology by referring to creation as "after the expiration of 2500 years . . ." (Of the Morality of the Fourth Commandment {London, 1641}, p. 196; also 198). The chief theologian of the Assembly, William Twisse, both followed the Ussher chronology and also endorsed a short creation period. In Twisse’s Of the Morality of the Fourth Commandment (London, 1641), he asserted that Adam fell on the seventh day, following a 24 hour sixth day: ". . . and surely Adams naming of them cost him no study; and undoubtedly all this was done before noon, and space enough allowed for the Devil’s conference with Eve . . ." (p. 51). Even if one differs with other parts of these original formulations, it is clear that the generation of the divines did have a definite and presumed view of the meaning of "in the space of six days."

6. Simeon Ashe: John Ball’s Short Treatise containing all the principle grounds of Christian Religion (London, 1650, 1670), prefaced and endorsed by Westminster divine Simeon Ashe also confirms, to wit: "What is creation? That whereby God made all things of nothing in six days" (with the scripture reference to Ex. 20:11) . . . How was the first matter created? It was made simply of nothing in time (Heb. 11:3)" (pp. 65-66). A careful reading of this leads to only one logical conclusion.

However, Simeon Ashe’s view is corroborated in his endorsement of the following in The Good Old Way (or Perkins Improved): A Plain Exposition and Sound Application (London, 1653): "Principle I, Member 3, Q 5; "When was the world created? It is betwixt five and six thousand years since the world was created. If it be asked at what time of year, the most judicious answer [is] in the spring time; if in what time, in the space of six daies (Gen. 1:31 compared with 2:1 and Ex. 20:11)." (p. 26)

7. Thomas Gataker endorsed John Richardson’s Annotations; Richardson, with the explicit blessing of Gataker, wrote in his Annotations on Genesis that the creation days were "natural days consisting of 24 houres." Furthermore, he commented: "The Evening, which is the beginning of the Night, and the Morning, which is the beginning of the Day, are called the first day, largely taken, the Day natural of 24 houres." Later on Genesis 1:5, Richardson wrote that the day’s time was one of normal Jewish reckoning, "as the beginning of the natural day of twenty four hours was reckoned from the Creation . . . the Point Material is, That it must comprehend twenty four hours.") Gataker not only endorsed this in the preface, but also confirmed the same view in a second source, his own Catechism.
 

Addendum, Feb. 16, 1999: New Westminster Divines Added to the Previous Catalogue, 1640-1690

8. Daniel Featley (1582-1645), Clavis Mystica: A Key Opening Divers Difficult and Mysterious Texts of Holy Scripture (London: Printed for Nicolas Bourne, 1636). In his sermon on Deut 32: 29 (Sermon XXII), Featley started with these words:
"Enoch lived by just computation so many yeeres as there are dayes in the yeere, viz. 365. and he was the seventh man from Adam, and dyed in anno Sabbathico, the Sabbathick yeere, and thereby became a lively Embleme both of this life, and the life to come. For the labours of this life are governed by the course of the Sunne, which is finished in that period of time; and the rest of the life to come is evidently prefigured in the Sabbath. It is farther written of him in the holy Records of eternity, that he walked with God, and was therefore translated that hee should not see death, to teach us, that they who walke with God all the dayes of their life as he did, shall come into no condemnation, but immediately passe from death to life, from death temporall to life eternall, which was not obscurely disciphered unto us in the narration of the seventh dayes creation. After the mention of every day in the weeke, and the worke thereof, wee reade, so the evening and the morning were the first day, and so the second, and the rest: but after the relation of the seventh dayes creation, on which God rested and blessed and sanctified it, the former clause is quite omitted. It is not added as in the rest, so the morning and the evening were the seventh day; because in Heaven, whereof the Sabbath was a type, there is no morning and evening, much lesse night; but as it were perpetuall high-noon. For the Lambe is the light thereof, and this Lambe is the Sunne of righteousnesse, which never riseth nor setteth, but keepth still in the midst of the Empyreall Heaven and Throne of God: as on the contrary, in Hell there is nothing but continuall midnight and everlasting darknesse." (280-281)

Featley implied that each of the six creation days were normal (24 hr.) days. He is not denying that there is no mention of morning and evening on the seventh normal day, but rather that the omission had a theological purpose behind it.
He even rested creation upon a Christological analogy: ". . . wherein our blessed Saviour made sixe steps to the Crosse, and having in sixe dayes accomplished the workes of mans redemption as his Father in the like number of dayes had finished the workes of creation, the seventh day kept his Sabbaths rest in the grave." (857)

Probably the most surprising discovery, however, occurs in Featley’s devotional piece, Ancilla Pietatis (London: Printed for Thomas Dring, 1675). It is reputed to be "the most popular manual of private devotion in its day" (DNB, VI, 1141).It underwent up to nine editions (this ninth edition which was published in 1675, is the edition we quote). One would hardly suspect that issues of creation would be broached in such a popular devotional piece, yet we will see that Featley’s common doctrine of the creation account served as a guide, in large measure, to the whole structure of his work.

Featley gives daily directions to one’s reading, meditation and prayer. This is one of the sections for the week. On Wednesday, it is entitled, "Wednesday Devotion, being the fourth day from the Creation." (p. 156) On this fourth day, we are told what God the Father did: "The Work of creation on this day." (p. 156) He lists Genesis 1:14-19 as the support, reference, and reading. For the morning meditation, the Christian is to meditate "on the Creation of the two great lights." (p. 157) In that morning’s prayer, the believer is to acknowledge God who created "the glorious Lamps and Heaven, the Sun and Moon to light him, the one in the day, the other in night, and both to measure his time, to direct his husbandry, to recreat [sic] him in his travels, to ripen his fruits, and encrease his store" (p. 165). The same method for Thursday (and other days) is found, e. g., "Thursdayes Devotion, being the fifth Day from the Creation... The work of Creation on this Day." (p. 179, Gen. 1:20-23 is cited) The prayer, again rooted in the creation account, thanks God "who this day commandest the fowls to flye through the Air" (p. 189).

Featley encouraged the saints to thank God for each day as each day had its corresponding history in the normal day of creation. Normal day creation chronology, therefore, was not an auxiliary issue; it had pious and practical implications. The saints of God were encouraged to recall the specific creation day and bless his Maker for it. Such a directive would have had no significance if "normal days" in the creation account were not in view.

9. Robert Baillie (1602-1662), Operis Historici et Chronologici Libri Duo; In quibus Historia Sacra and Profane compendiose deducitur ex ipsis fontibus, á creatione Mundi ad Contantinum Magnum, … Amstelodami: Apud Joannem a Someren, 1668) (…from the creation of the world to Constantine the Great). The chapter headings are of particular interest. Baillie, a leading Scottish Divine, addressed the following specific topics:

Baillie affirmed: "We view the world and all its parts as created from nothing in time in the space of six days" (visum in tempore mundum omnesque mundi partes, spatio sex dierum, ex nihilo creare.) (2)

Creation at the Vernal Equinox is addressed in the second question, clearly exhibiting the Scotsmen’s view that creation occurred on a natural day in Autumn. Quae anni tempestate mundus sit creatus. "Secundo Quaeritur, quo anni tempore mundus creatus sit? Respondeo, est in confesso Solem & Lunam creata in stata aliqua & sixa parte Zodiaci, host est, vel in uno aequinoctiroum seu Verno seu Autumnali, vel in uno Solstitiorum seu hyberno seu aestivo: quanquam in circulo & motibus Palnetarum circularibus nullum vere sit principium nec finis, nec medium, nec quidquam statum and fixum, sed quod auna ratione concipitur principium, altera medium, altera finis dicis potest: tamen relatione ad certas terrae partes & incolas, praedictae quatuor Zodiaci partes recte notantur ad varios usus in humana vita ut statae & fixae .… Primo, Tempus quo arbores onerantur fructibus est Autumnus: at tempore quo creabatur Mundus, arbores onerabantur fructibus, ut ex historia lapsus in paradiso statim a creatione patet." (5)

Translation: The Second Question: in which time of the year was the world created? I reply and it is my profession that the Sun and the Moon were somehow created in determinate positions and according to the six parts of the Zodiac, that is, at one equinox or the other, the Spring or the Fall equinox, at one solstice or the other, winter or summer. Although the planets were moving circularly in many orbits, truly their origin was not at the end or the middle of those orbits, but they were determined and fixed [by God]. But these were conceived by understanding [or appearance] as having been manifest from other beginnings, middles, and ending [points of orbit]. However, [as viewed] in relation to certain parts and inhabitants of the earth, they appeared as prearranged according to the four parts of the Zodiac, straightly aligned as determined and fixed for various uses in human life . . . The first time was Autumn when the trees were bearing fruit; but the time when the world was created the trees were bearing fruit, so that from the history of the Fall in paradise as determined from creation is well known (patet).
One of the leading Scots Divine certainly thought this matter to be clear, fixed, literal, and "well known."

10. John Selden (1584-1654), Theanthropos: or, God made Man, A Tract proving the nativity of our Saviour to be on the 25. of December. (London: Printed by J. G. for Nathaniel Brooks, 1661). Reputed to be one of the most learned men in the Assembly and a leader of the Erastian party, John Selden sought to prove that Christ was born on December 25th in one of his small tracts (like most Erastians, he believed in Holy Days). As a prominent layman (one of thirty at the Assembly), he did not necessarily argue for this on the floor. But in this tract (after the Assembly), he argued for the traditional date of Christmas. Various dates for the year of Christ’s birth were weighed; they were 4711, 4549, 4550, 4710, etc. He refers to this dating as commonly received at the time (Theanthropos, 57). Burroughs and Goodwin further utilize this manner of computing time, namely, the year when Christ was born from the day of creation. It was commonly or "vulgarly" received by the divines, whereas no mention is ever made to the Day-Age or Framework theories. We suspect Selden’s De Anno Civili et Calendarios Veteris Ecclesiae seu Reipublicae Judaicae (1644) might say something more specific (we have not yet secured a copy). Selden, in another book (Uxor Hebraica, 1646), has shown that the Jews dated significant legal documents and events from the date of creation ("…years from the creation of the world" from p. 147, and "…year from Creation" from p. 421). He seems to be quoting Jewish authorities approvingly; these references necessarily support only one dating of creation, i. e., the normal way of dating, employing natural days.

11. Joseph Caryl (1602?-1673) Joseph Caryl, in the largest commentary on the book of Job from the period, made some illuminating comments regarding creation. Caryl launches into each and every topic touched upon in Job. Creation, of course, does not escape his analysis.

One of the first things Caryl deals with is the issue of dating Job himself. In a side note, Caryl cited a leading authority on Job’s date: "An. 2230 from the Creation, 574 years after the Flood; 282 years after Abraham." (p. 2) In response, he stated that he cannot be as "accurate," not because the chronological method was inappropriate but because locating Job’s historical context was difficult. However, he concluded: "We may safely say, that Job lived between the times of Abraham, and Moses; and nearer Moses then [sic] Abraham.’ (p. 3)

Caryl wished to determine on which day the "Morning Star" was created. To this he said that "their Creation is comprehended in the works of the first day, under those general words (Gen. I.1) In the beginning God created the Heavens, and the Earth; the Heavens contained all the Stars in their materiality, though not yet formally produced…" (p. 1907). Though this suggested much, it will make more sense from some of the references following.

In dealing with Job 38:12 (p. 1926), Caryl referred to a verse in Genesis in which God "commanded the first morning (Gen. I.5)." (p. 1926) He explained the theological point of the first morning by stating what God was in effect saying: "There was a morning before thy [that is, man’s] days; and since thy days many have continued and come forth daily; yet not at thy command, but at mine. As I brought forth the light in the first day of the Creation, so the fourth day I Created the Sun, into which I gathered the light, and at whose rising the morning shews it self." (p. 1927) Similarly, "As surely there is no Creature wherein we may see and contemplate more of God than in the light, which he made the first day, and now commandeth to make the morning day by day." (p. 1930) In this last reference, he equated the first day of creation with normal (Job’s contemporary) days. More importantly, Caryl argued that the "morning and evening" in Job 4:20 were normal days and appealed to Genesis 1:5 to prove his point: "the morning and the evening are the parts of a natural day, Gen. I. 5. Or the two terms of a civil day, and there include and take in the full compass of the day." (p. 349) The importance of this reference is his Genesis citation. Normal or "natural day" was founded on Gen. 1:5 for this Assembly Divine.
There are various references to the creation account scattered throughout his commentary. Before we list them, let us note what sort of literary genre Genesis possessed for Joseph Caryl. The Genesis account was a "holy story" (p. 955), which contained the "History of Creation" (p. 1929), because there is "history in Genesis" (p. 1802).

"‘Tis God who hath made those great lights, the Sun to rule the day, and the Moon and Stars to rule the night (Gen. 1.16). The day would be night to us, if God had not prepared the Sun (for though these were three days before the Sun was made, yet now is the Sun which makes the day) and the night would be nothing but darkness to us, if God had not prepared the Moon and the Siars (sic)." (p. 1931) "Creation was a work end[ing] in six days," he wrote, "but Providence is a work that never ends…" (p. 1795)

Creation was "not a house huddled and clapt up together, without skill or art, though it was made with a word speaking in six days, yet it was made with infinite wisdom…" (p. 1893) Further, he wrote: "We understand the Work of Creation, yet not by the strength of natural reason, but through faith…" (p. 1893) and "before God perfected the creation, all was a confused heap without form and void. But that rude indigested matter was drawn forth in the several works of the six-days Creation, into a most beautiful form and order" (p. 1358) [cf. 1361]

Note: Dr. William Barker objects to inclusion of Joseph Caryl as a Westminster Divine, but Alexander Mitchell lists him as taking part in the debates at Westminster. Moreover, Robert Paul confirms this (contra Barker): "Here they spent to us many of twentie long sessions. Goodwin took most of the speech upon him; yet they divided their arguments among them, and gave the managing of them by turnes, to Bridges, Burroughs, Nye, Simpson, and Caryll. Truelie, if the cause were good, the men have plentie of learning, witt, eloquence, and above all, boldness and stiffness, to make it out; but when they had weared themselves, and over-wearied us all, we found the most they had to say against the Presbyterie, was but curious idle niceties." Publick Letter, April 2nd, 1644, Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals II, 145. Another source confirms, "In 1643 he [Caryl] was appointed a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and became a frequent preacher before the Long Parliament." (Bible Thoughts, p.i)

12. Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himselfe (London: J. D. for Andrew Crooke, 1647). "Our Saviour, who promiseth soule-rest to others, cannot have soule-rest himselfe: his soule is now on a wheele sore tossed, and all the creatures are upon a wheele, and in motion; there is not a creature since Adam sinned, sleepeth sound. Wearinesse and motion is laid on Moon and Sunne, and all creatures on this side of the Moon. Seas ebbe and flow, and that’s trouble; winds blow, rivers move, heavens and stars these five thousand yeares, except one time, have not had sixe minutes rest; living creatures walk apace toward death... and Kings cannot have beds to rest in. The six dayes Creation hath been travelling and shouting for paine, and the Child is not born yet, Rom. 8.22." (p. 12)

Rutherford also wrote: "Angels elect and chosen, never lost their birth-right of creation, as Men and Devils have done; they were created as the Lilies or Roses, which no doubt, had more sweetnesse of beauty and smell, before the sin of man made them vanity-sick, Ro.8.20. but they kept their robes of innocency, their cloth of gold above five thousand yeares, without one spark of dirt, or change of colour, for they never sinned; innocencie and freedome from sinne, hath much of God. Adam (as many think) kept not his garments cleane one day." (p. 185; italics added)

We can draw two important conclusions about Rutherford. The first is the most obvious, i. e., Rutherford dated his life in relation to the birth of creation, just like every other contemporary Puritan. This is so clear that not much more needs to be said regarding the puritan way of dating. However two other phrases and thoughts are suggested by the references above. Rutherford refers to "the six dayes Creation" in contrast or in comparison to the 5,000 years. Whichever way we wish to interpret it, he viewed it as normal days as much as the five thousand years are normal years. The six day creation has been suffering for five thousand years – that seems to be the point behind his statement. This suggests a literal or normal day creation. Also, the other reference to Adam’s sin is very significant. Rutherford is suggesting that perhaps Adam fell on the sixth day (now, whether he himself held to this view or not is insignificant) to underscore how quickly he fell. Lightfoot himself held to this view. "Redemption was wrought on the sixth day, as the fall had been on the sixth day. … About the third hour, the hour afterward of sacrifice and prayer, it is very probable Adam was created… About the sixth hour, or high noon, Adam most probably fell, as being the time of eating… And John tells you, chap. xix.14, that, about the sixth hour, he was condemned, and led away to be crucified… Such harmony may be found betwixt the day and hours, of the one and of the other: the latter helping to prove and clear, that Adam fell on the sixth day, the day on which he was created, —and ‘continued not in honour all night.’" (Works, VII:377) Samuel Rutherford does not deny the computation involved in such a theory – it is only suggestive of his practical point, namely, Adam fell quite quickly. Rutherford was not offended by the suggestion that someone actually thought Adam fell on the sixth day of creation.

Explicit Non-Voting Members

13. James Ussher (at least 4 works, but counted only as one) None dispute his view, and his extraneous political views or affiliations are not at issue. Although he was at Oxford during the Assembly, he was a contemporary and appointed by Parliament as a divine. Since his explicit view is uncontested in substance—regardless of physical absence (since the question is not quantity of attendance but quality of views)—Ussher can be dismissed as irrelevant only with far greater argumentation than presently extant. His testimony to original intent on this question is explicit.

Warfield sets out columns showing the close parallels of thought and expression between James Ussher and the WCF. Warfield includes both a reference to the use of "the space of . . ." as well as showing Ussher’s chronology that does not allow for geologic ages, when he records Ussher’s comment: "Why may not men want the Scriptures now, as they did at the first from the creation until the time of Moses, for the space of 2513 years?" (The Westminster Assembly and its Work, 179).

While it is true that Ussher was appointed to the Assembly by Parliament but did not attend since he withdrew shortly thereafter to teach at Oxford in 1643, in light of his stature, a father to the divines, their departure from his position on creation would certainly have been considered a defection during their day. To expect that they ‘privately’ held to long periods of creation remains conjecture without documentation.

If only eight of the above are correct, until written citations can be produced that fairly indicate some Westminster divine held to a long-age view, it is only fair that adherents to that position admit that they do so without earlier company and contrary to the earlier Westminster position. Later company may arrive, but we are still searching for any of the divines, much less more than we have cited (which would be needed to establish a majority view), who held to a long geologic age for creation. That view still looks like a relatively recent modern invention, regardless of numerous adherents in our own century. Whether our studies have amassed five, eight, or nine incontrovertible witnesses to original intent, or 19 or 21, the amazing fact is that historians must finally agree on the original intent of the Westminster divines on the nature of creation days, until they present primary and incontrovertible testimony from other such divines to the contrary. Mere speculation or assertion without evidence will not be credible until primary documentation is actually provided. Until that time, an unbiased person would recognize any attempt to espouse the view that the divines held to a long day or framework hypothesis as little more than an unsubstantiated prejudice, anachronism, or dependence on faulty secondary and tertiary materials.

Implicit or at least not Silent Voting Members

1. Stephen Marshall in The Christian Sabbath Vindicated (London, 1645)—which was endorsed by Assembly leaders Charles Herle, Daniel Cawdrey, and Herbert Palmer—tied a regular Sabbath day to the days of creation: ". . . it was in Time determined together, as the seventh day from the Creation, together with one Day of seven (Gen. 2)." (p. 248) Later, Marshall also tied the meaning of the Sabbath to a "revolution" of our sun.

2. Daniel Cawdrey. See item 10 above.

3. Charles Herle (Second "Moderator"). See item 10 above.

4. Herbert Palmer. See item 10 above.

The following in my original should not be counted since they were not actually members of the Assembly, merely contemporaries: James Janeway and William Jenkyn. I hereby also surrender (and hereby correct the public record accordingly) William Gouge and Daniel Featly. I had originally listed them as co-authors of the Annotations. I assumed they conjointly composed that book, but it appears that Ley may have been alone in composing the Annotations on the Pentateuch.

5. However, Gouge must be added back in light of other testimony. William Gouge corroborates this view. In his The Sabbath’s Sanctification (London, 1641, p. 2), Gouge catechized: "Of how many houres doth the Sabbath day consist? Of foure and twenty (Gen. 2:3). The Sabbath is called the seventh day; so as it is a seventh part of the week; therefore so many houres as make up every of the other days which are four and twenty must be accounted to this day." Earlier in his 1635 A Short Catechism, Wherein are briefly handled the Fundamental Principles of Christian Religion, Gouge adopted the same terminology as Ussher, Perkins, and Ames, viz., "How did God create all things? By his Word, of nothing, in six days, very good." To avoid the obvious qualification of the clarifying clause "in six days," some recent theologians seek to argue that this phrase has no meaning. Of course, if that were the case, Gouge and others would have simply omitted such—unless interpreters wish equally to permit the ignoring of the clauses "By his Word," or "of nothing." The consistent presence of this phrase in the literature must be faced. Also in his 1635 A Short Catechism, he asked: "How did God make all things? A: By his Word, of nothing, in six dayes, very good." (cf. Also Ball, p. 69).

Moreover, in his commentary on Hebrews, Gouge opined: "in the first chapter of Genesis, it is expressly declared what particular creatures God made in every of the six days. We are not to think that there was any such need of God’s taking up so much time as he did in creating the world, as if he could not have done it in a shorter time . . . yea, he could have made all in one moment. Two reasons may be given of God’s taking up six days in making the world. One, that by a due consideration of every day’s work, we might the better discern the difference of every creature, one from another; and the dependence of one upon another. For the creatures first made were for the use of such as followed after them. The other, that God might be a pattern to children of men throughout all ages, how to spend their time, namely, by working six days in every week, and resting the seventh."

Later Gouge clarified his view (reflecting Ussher’s influence) on Hebrews 4:5: "Thus in the beginning of the world there was mention made of a rest, which was the rest of the Sabbath day; but now again, above three thousand years after that, mention is made of another rest." (305)

6. Another recent find is the comment of John Arrowsmith, a leading Cambridge theologian at the Assembly, who indicated his position by the following: ". . . the Sun and Mans body had a mediate creation, as being produced ex non-ente tali: from such things as of themselves could not have cause such effects, but by virtue of God’s creative Word." It is illogical, however, to count his view in light of the above as anything other than the common view of the other divines above.

6b. It is difficult to ignore another strong testimony contained in the contemporary Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible ordered by the Synod of Dort. This commentary admired by the Westminster divines observes the following (on Gen. 1:5): "The meaning of these words [day/night] is that night and day had made up one natural day together, which with the Hebrews began with the evening and ended with the approach of the next evening, comprehending twenty four houres." Can objective research find similar weighty support for differing views?

17. Jeremiah Burroughes, a leading divine, appears to hold to the same view as Ussher, Perkins, and Lightfoot, i. e., "For he [Christ] was Prophecied of for 4000 Years before he came into the world, and in a Mighty dark way, as now this first Prophecie of Christ. The seed of the Woman shall break the Serpents head, what could they understand of this, and yet under this Prophecie was the whole Gospel Prophecied . . ."

Implicit non-Voting Members

1. John Wallis: The eminent mathematician followed Herbert Palmer’s catechetical form as follows: "Q 9: What is the work of creation? Is it God’s making all things of nothing in the space of six days? Yes. Or was there somewhat which God made not, of which other things were made? No. Doth God make all things by the word of his power, without the use of instruments? Yes. (John Wallis, A Brief and Easie Explanation of the Shorter Catechism, London, 1657, p. 6) Wallis’ use of the phrases "in the space of six days" coupled with "without the use of instruments" make it clear that he did not hold to a long geologic period of creation.

2. Adoniram Byfield: "First, that the world had a beginning and was not eternal. Secondly, that this world and the things therein was made by God. Thirdly, that all was made of nothing. Fourthly, that God made all things by his Word onely. Fifthly, that all things in their creation were made good." Upon what reason should this scribe’s contribution to original intent be minimized? Moreover, the use of "onely" in the fourth affirmation rules out creation over a long period of time by all natural or by some natural processes. One may disagree with that view, but it seems clear what the view is.

As a methodological canon, it would be most novel to hold that simply because one was a clerk therefore he could not also write on subjects and be considered reflective of the original intent of some Assembly at which he was recording No standard work on the Assembly (e.g., Reid, Beveridge, or Mitchell) suggests the scribes were inaccurate reflections of the work of the Assembly. Any single clerk’s voice, of course, would not be authoritative alone; nor would it be indubitable if it offered contrary testimony due to absence. However, if it agreed with all other contemporaneous testimony, and was uncontradicted, no reasonable basis exists to exclude it as part of the original intent. Before dismissing the voices of Ussher, Wallis, and Byfield, historians will need to document that methodological criterion from other similar fair research.

Summary: There still exists, even after considerable research on the matter, no credible instance of a divine holding to a long age of creation or the Framework Hypothesis. Zero. On the other hand, at least 22 Westminster divines who were either present, commissioned to serve, or recording the actual proceedings of the Assembly testified—explicitly or implicitly—to their belief in 24 hour days, a fairly short period between creation and Christ’s birth, and a rejection of Augustine’s position. A jesuitical disqualification of a scribe, or a distant divine, or even the disqualification of other divines who did leave a paper trail on this question, at most drops the score to 15-0 or 9-0 or 8-0, depending on criteria or personal zeal.

The important thing is that this matter is established by multiple witnesses and there is no evidence, despite vigorous and well-manned searches to the contrary. It is not unreasonable or unfair to expect those taking the long geologic period view to present greater evidence than we have in order to take their historical claim seriously.

In addition to those 22 (above), three additional divines stamped their approval on Vincent’s The Shorter Catechism Explained From Scripture, and his wording "in the space of six days’ TIME" cannot be interpreted in any way other than in reference to actual chronology. Thomas Vincent’s 1674 commentary is particularly weighty, having been published while many of the divines were still living. The Shorter Catechism Explained From Scripture (1674, rpr. Banner of Truth, 1980), moreover was endorsed by three additional Wesminster divines: Joseph Caryl, Edmund Calamy, and Thomas Case.

A key word is often overlooked in Vincent’s explanation: his addition of "time" as a qualifier supplements the customary "in six days" phrase which was adopted by the confession. Vincent wrote:

Thereafter, Vincent devotes a question to what was created on each day, giving no indication that he, or the other Westminster divines who endorsed this, envisioned a concept that developed hundreds of years later.

Therefore, I believe it is only fair to include Westminster divines Joseph Caryl (#19), Edmund Calamy (#20), and Thomas Case (#21) as indicating their view by the qualifier of "time" following "in the space of six days." It is not the case, at the very least, that they were silent. Can a fair study honestly report that there is no indication or contrary indication for these three additional divines? At the very least, these implicit testimonies should be weighted more than later secondary sources, even if propagated by some of our latter-day reformed heroes. Original voices, in other words, in this historical matter are deemed more reliable—whether explicit or implicit—than non-contemporaneous voices. Any claim that the Westminster divines had some other view must be reconciled to this fact of history and cannot stand except as mere speculation or anachronistic hypothesis. This heavy burden is still unproven.

At worst, the score is 18-0 or 15-0 or 9-0 or 8-0; at best, it is 21-0 (and rising, thanks to the additional finds of George Walker, Thomas Goodwin, Jeremiah Burroughes, and John Arrowsmith; others will likely be added to this list in the future). Statements of mere bias, speculation, or those depending on comments on unrelated subjects cannot be equated with the findings of primary material on the question of original intent.

Moreover, of the other 15 divines who wrote catechisms, none of them supported a long geologic age of creation. Further, the other contemporaneous theologians add to the cumulative weight, that until disproven, simply disallows the best scholarship, with so much evidence, to say either that the divines’ view is unknown or merely probable. It is compelling. Will other overwhelming, unrefuted evidence be produced? Perhaps.

Thus far the historical conclusion remains clear, sufficient, unrefuted, and not merely probable. To differ with that view may still be possible, but in candor, it should be admitted as an exception (as for other confessional loci), and promulgated contingent upon presbytery approbation. (Revised 3/25/99; 2/16/00)