Was there too much activity on day six for it to have been a 24-hour day?
One of the reasons skeptics reject the validity of the biblical account of creation is because they find it impossible to believe that one man could name every single species of animal on the Earth in a single day. Considering there are only 86,400 seconds in a 24-hour period, we are told it is ridiculous to believe that an individual (who had never seen animals before the day he named them) could name several million species of animals in one day. Perhaps over a period of a few weeks he could accomplish such a task, but not in a single day—right?
The problem with such objections to Genesis 2:18-20 is that they are based on unfounded assumptions. The question that skeptics often ask, “How could Adam have possibly gathered and named all of the animals on the Earth in one day?,” is misleading because the Bible places certain restrictions on the animals Adam named. Consider the following.
Adam’s task did not include searching for and gathering all of God’s creatures. Rather, God “brought them” to him (Genesis 2:19). Likely, this was in some sort of orderly fashion in order to reduce the amount of time and human energy necessary to complete the process.
Genesis 2:20 does not say that Adam named all of the animals on the Earth. The text says that “Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” Excluded from this naming process were sea creatures and creeping things mentioned earlier in the creation narrative (cf. Genesis 1: 21,25).
The beasts God brought to Adam are qualified by the descriptive phrase “of the field” (hassadeh). Although the precise limits of the term “field” are difficult to determine, it is possible that it refers only to those beasts living in Eden.
If the beasts of the field were limited to those animals within the boundaries of Eden, then livestock and birds could have been similarly limited. This would greatly reduce the number of animals involved in the naming process, since it is very unlikely that all created animals lived in Eden. [If so, Eden would have been quickly overrun and destroyed.]
Contrary to popular belief, Adam did not name millions of species of animals on day six (cf. Wells, 2001; McKinsey, 2000, p. 84). Genesis 1 states that the animals were created “according to their kind(s)” (vs. 21), not species. The Bible was written long before man invented the modern Linnaean classification system. The “kinds” (Hebrew min) of animals Adam named on the sixth day of Creation were probably very broad—more like groups of birds and land animals rather than specific genera and species. Adam would have given animals general names like “turtle” or “dog,” not special names like “pig-nosed soft-shell turtle” or “Alaskan Husky.”
These textual considerations suggest that the events of day six could have been accomplished quite easily within a 24-hour period. Adam was created with the ability to speak, to reason, and to carry out whatever task(s) God assigned him.
McKinsey, Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotated bible.com/1cor/index.html.