What is time?

Do we really understand how time works? 

But what of time itself? The Greek view is to consider time as a thing, an object, a commodity, like coins in your pocket. Out of this view we can hear, I’m sorry but I don’t have enough time to finish this, as if the “coins of time” allotted to a specific task have been used up. The Hebraic view, by contrast, sees time simply as a process where the key aspect is the task performed, rather than the “time” it takes to do it. That being so I can shamefully admit that, as a slave to schedule, I'm currently in the “Greek camp”, whereas my wife, Monica, is task-oriented to the extent that, when we have planned to leave the house at a certain time, she’s utterly blind to a stroppy husband pacing up and down impatiently, while she deals with a last-minute mercy phone call from an elderly lady whom she barely knows. But I am learning, because these actual words are being written at a conference where I am expected to attend a series of talks, but have instead decided to stay in my bedroom to commit myself to writing 1,000 words, however long it takes!

So, biblically, it is the task or event that is important, rather than the time at which it occurs or the time it takes to do it. The time is incidental, it is just recorded so that we can have a convenient record of the sequence of events. When we read about the darkness that fell between the sixth and the ninth hour of the crucifixion, the key feature is the darkness itself, not the time of day. We often wonder about eternal life, usually trying to get our heads around the concept of “eternity”, whereas the Hebraic view would not consider that and just look forwards to the “life”. In Job 1:21 we read these familiar words:

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.a1 The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;2 may the name of the LORD be praised."3

Job doesn’t quarrel about the duration of his time on Earth, he simply accepts that God is in control of the situation. Our lives are in His hand, which can last one day or one century. It is the life itself that we must celebrate, not its duration. There is no such thing as an untimely death in God’s eyes.

When God stopped the sun in its tracks for a whole day to help Joshua in battle with the Amorites (Joshua 10) or when the sun’s movement reversed in 2 Kings 20 as a sign for King Hezekiah, the Scripture doesn’t explain how He did it, as it was the event that was important not time considerations. The fact that our carefully nurtured Laws of Physics would have been utterly skewed at this event is not the issue, as we should always focus on the Lawmaker not the laws themselves. Of course this is too much for many of us to contemplate. Perhaps we have made an idol out of Science and there’s a part of us peeved that we have offended it? In doing so, have we diminished our view of God and what He can actually do?

In the story of Creation in Genesis, we have the first day, the second day etc. In each day God performs amazing tasks. What is important are these tasks, not our consideration of what a day and a night is, in terms of the Earth spinning around its axis. Instead we should look at it from God’s perspective. He performed these tasks. It took him a certain amount of time to do so. He called these periods “day” and “night”. Then he caused the Earth to spin on its axis so that these time periods can have meaning to mankind once we’d been created. The point is that it is the tasks themselves that we should primarily consider. More of this a little later.

 This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at



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