Re: St. Basil's 400AD view of the Days of proclamation

George Murphy (
Tue, 17 Aug 1999 08:17:53 -0400 wrote:
> George, I have stated them here on this forum several times over the past
> few years. They are stated on my web page. I don't know what more I could
> have done. I don't think you were paying attention.
Let's don't play the "Surely you've read ..." game. I don't read everything on
this list, or everyone's web page, & you don't read everything I've written or all the
authors I think are important.

> > Does this refers to Basil's Hexaemeron? There, in connection with Day 1,
> Basil
> >says (p.63 in the Nicene & Post-Nicene Father edition), "The first word of
> God created
> >the nature of light; it made darkness visible, dispelled gloom,
> illuminated the world,
> >and gave to all beings at the same time a sweet and gracious aspect. ...
> In an instant
> >it lighted up the whole extent of the world ...". This doesn't explicitly
> say that
> >fulfillment immediately followed command, but neither do I see any
> language suggesting a
> >delay.
> Basil was a Platonist and believed in the world of ideas that preceded the
> present(actualized) world:
> "Thus the writer who wisely tells us of the birth of the Universe does not
> fail to put these words at the head of the narrative. "In the beginning God
> created;" that is to say, in the beginning of time. Therefore, if he makes
> the world appear in the beginning, it is not a proof that its birth has
> preceded that of all other things that were made. He only wishes to tell us
> that, after the invisible and intellectual world, the visible world, the
> world of the senses, began to exist."
> St. Basil, Homily I, one can get this electronically at:
> THis opens the door for a period of time PRIOR to the creation in which God
> worked to plan the universe.
> "5. It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things(1)
> existed of which our mind can form an idea, but of which we can say
> nothing, because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners
> and are still babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a
> condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers,
> outstripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite. *****The Creator and
> Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it****, spiritual light for
> the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures,
> all the orderly arrangement(2) of pure intelligences who are beyond the
> reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names."
> St. Basil, Homily I, one can get this electronically at:

The text is that which old-fashioned folks like myself find in _The Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers_, 2d series, Vol.VIII.
Yes, & I thought of getting into this in my post yesterday but was trying to
keep it brief.
Note that Basil says here that God _perfected_ his works in this spiritual
world. This does not refer to God's commands "Let there be light" &c being made before
the creation of the physical universe, commands which would only be fulfilled much
You are right that there are Platonic influences on Basil, but those of Origen
are perhaps more important here. Basil is talking about the creation of a spiritual &
intellectual realm before the physical universe, a la Origen, but not of that realm as
the pattern according to which the physical world would be made.

> **** Emphasis mine. That phrase implies that God perfected things prior to
> the actual creation. THis implies that God PLANNED things before the
> creation and didn't create them when he planned them. Then Basil holds that
> the first day was connected with eternity past:

> And the evening and the morning were one day.(4) Why does Scripture say
> "one day the first day"? Before speaking to us of the second, the third,
> and the fourth days, would it not have been more natural to call that one
> the first which began the series? If it therefore says "one day," it is
> from a wish to determine the measure of day and night, and to combine the
> time that they contain. Now twenty-four hours fill up the space of one
> day--we mean of a day and of a night; and if, at the time of the solstices,
> they have not both an equal length, the time marked by Scripture does not
> the less circumscribe their duration. It is as though it said: twenty-four
> hours measure the space of a day, or that, in reality a day is the time
> that the heavens starting from one point take to return there. Thus, every
> time that, in the revolution of the sun, evening and morning occupy the
> world, their periodical succession never exceeds the space of one day.
> But must we believe in a mysterious reason for this? God who made the
> nature of time measured it out and determined it by intervals of days; and,
> wishing to give it a week as a measure, he ordered the week to revolve from
> period to period upon itself, to count the movement of time, forming the
> week of one day revolving seven times upon itself: a proper circle begins
> and ends with itself. Such is also the character of eternity, to revolve
> upon itself and to end nowhere. If then the beginning of time is called
> "one day" rather than "the first day," it is because Scripture wishes to
> establish its relationship with eternity. It was, in reality, fit and
> natural to call "one" the day whose character is to be one wholly separated
> and isolated from all the others. If Scripture speaks to us of many ages,
> saying everywhere, "age of age, and ages of ages," we do not see it
> enumerate them as first, second, and third. It follows that we are hereby
> shown not so much limits, ends and succession of ages, as distinctions
> between various states and modes of action. "The day of the Lord,"
> Scripture says, "is great and very terrible,"(5) and elsewhere "Woe unto
> you that desire the day of the Lord: to what end is it for you? The day of
> the Lord is darkness and not light."(1) A day of darkness for those who are
> worthy of darkness. No; this day without evening, without succession and
> without end is not unknown to Scripture, and it is the day that the
> Psalmist calls the eighth day, because it is outside this time of weeks.(2)
> Thus whether you call it day, or whether you call it eternity, you express
> the same idea. Give this state the name of day; there are not several, but
> only one. If you call it eternity still it is unique and not manifold. Thus
> it is in order that you may carry your thoughts forward towards a future
> life, that Scripture marks by the word "one" the day which is the type of
> eternity, the first fruits of days, the contemporary of light, the holy
> Lord's day honoured by the Resurrection of our Lord. And the evening and
> the morning were one day."
> St. Basil, Homily II, one can get this electronically at:
> Since Basil has connected the first day with eternity past, he now talks
> about how the beginning of time is not time. But he does hold to an
> instantaneous creation of the entire she-bang.
> "Perhaps these words "In the beginning God created" signify the rapid and
> imperceptible moment of creation. The beginning, in effect, is indivisible
> and instantaneous. The beginning of the road is not yet the road, and that
> of the house is not yet the house; so the beginning of time is not yet time
> and not even the least par-title of it. If some objector tell us that the
> beginning is a time, he ought then, as he knows well, to submit it to the
> division of time--a beginning, a middle and an end. Now it is ridiculous to
> imagine a beginning of a beginning. Further, if we divide the beginning
> into two, we make two instead of one, or rather make several, we really
> make an infinity, for all that which is divided is divisible to the
> infinite.(3) Thus then, if it is said, "In the beginning God created," it
> is to teach us that at the will of God the world arose in less than an
> instant, and it is to convey this meaning more clearly that other
> interpreters have said: "God made summarily" that is to say all at once and
> in a moment.(3) But enough concerning the beginning, if only to put a few
> points out of many." St. Basil, Homily I, one can get this electronically at:
> The first part of this seems to imply that the beginning was not the
> creation. the begining of time is not time. This implies as does the
> passage above, that there are events that supercede time prior to the
> beginning. Then Basil does seem to say that when God created the heavens
> and earth, he did it instantaneously. But recall from the first passage
> that God perfected his works before the creation. That is a Days of
> Proclamation type of interpretation.

Basil believed God created the material of the world "in the beginning" & that
it had the capabilities ("fully gifted creation" &c) to develop in accord with God's
command, _when God wanted it to_. But he doesn't say that all those commands were
given long before they were carried out.

> I would point out that Basil's interpretation had nothing to do with modern
> science because he knew none.

No, but he was pretty good with 4th century science.
> > The connection with eternity which Basil mentions (p. 64) is the idea
> that the
> >"week of one day revolving seven times upon itself" has the character of
> eternity - kind
> >of like Plato's idea of time as "the moving image of eternity." I see no
> idea here of
> >a delay between command and fulfillment.
> > Basil does (like several of the fathers) see God's commands following 1:1
> as
> >calling forth powers which he had given to matter when he first created
> it. AND he sees
> >the commands for the earth to bring forth vegetation &c as effective not
> only on that
> >particular day but for succeeding time, so in that sense the fulfillment
> of the creative
> >commands is still going on.
> Absolutely. That is an ancient justification in Christian theology for a
> gifted creation as Howard van Till would describe things. Basil does see a
> gifted creation.

We have no disagreement here & this seems to me one of the more important
aspects of both Gen.1 & an adequate doctrine of creation.
> >
> > Whiston, a contemporary and friend of Isaac Newton, then
> >> extended the view by noting that there could be a long period of time
> >> between the command and the fulfillment of the command.
> >
> > Even if one grants this there is nothing to suggest any break in the
> sequence
> >command-fulfillment-command-fulfillment .... . I.e., God's command "Let
> there be light"
> >is fulfilled with light before God commands a firmament. Thus making a
> long period of
> >time between command & fulfillment is simply a variation of the day-age
> interpretation &
> >doesn't change the ordering of events.
> Yes there is. and this is the contribution by Capron and Hayward. (which
> due to my computer theft a couple of months ago and my books and notes
> being in storage I won't be able to do justice to his view).
> Look at Genesis 1:3-5. It says,
> 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the
> light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5And
> God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening
> and the morning were the first day.
> The Hebrew of course has no quotation marks. But we can be quite sure that
> the Bible doesn't mean: And God said, "Let there be light: and there was
> light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light
> from the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he
> called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
> Where everything after 'And God said' is in quotation marks. God didn't say
> all the rest of the material. All that God said was "LET THERE BE LIGHT".
> "And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from
> the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called
> Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
> Some editor or writer said that. When did that writer say all that? He
> couldn't have said it before or at the creation. THE WRITER HAD TO HAVE
> SAID THIS *AFTER* THE CREATION. This is the writer's statement.

> So what Capron noticed was that God never actually created anything in
> Genesis 1. All God did was make statements. Nothing but statements. The
> writer, who lived after creation was a finished product tells us what
> happened in the WRITER'S past. There is absolutely NO indication of WHEN
> God actually created the universe.
> THere is no statement: "Let there be light IMMEDIATELY!"
> There is no statement: "Let there be light INSTANTANEOUSLY!"
> There is not statement: "Let there be light IMMEDIATELY AFTER I CEASE THIS
> The assumption of command-fulfillment is just that. An assumption!!!!!!!
> One that we have lived with too long. One that we have come to accept
> passively.

While I am NOT saying that Genesis 1 is "poetry" in the strict sense (again, see
Gottwald's article in IDB for details), the parallelism characteristic of Hebrew poetry
often carries over into other literature (like "riding upon an ass, and a colt the foal
of an ass".) "God said, 'Let the waters bring forth ...' & So God created ..." has the
same type of structure.

> To the writer, the creation WAS a fait accompli. But that doesn't mean
> >
> >Then Frederick
> >> Capron in 1902 published 'The Conflict of Truth' in which he argued for the
> >> fulfledged Days of proclamation theory (although it was only a small part
> >> of the book). The following is from a recent re-write of Foundation, Fall
> >> and Flood, which a publisher, who approached me, is looking at right now:
> > This seems to miss the point that God's command IS God doing something.
> >God's word does what it says.
> No. God never says that He is doing something instantaneously when He
> commanded. THis is assumption pure and simple--a popular assumption I
> grant-- but still an assumption.
> Of capron's quote you wrote:
> > Again, if this is to be any different from the usual day-age theory, one
> must
> >rearrange the order of events without, as far as I can see, any
> justification in the
> >text.
> I don't think "above" settles it. It's one thing to say that God's command is
only fulfilled after a lapse of time. As I noted, there is an important sense in which
"Let the earth bring forth ..." &c is _still_ being fulfilled. But it's quite another
matter to say in essence that all these commands were spoken & then that they were all
fulfilled. I.e., I see no reasonable way of reading the text that would allow one to
read it as meaning that the _command_ "Let the earth bring forth living creatures"
preceded the _fulfillment_ of "Let the earth put forth vegetation" e.g.

> > Certainly IF you can
> > a) make the creation days long periods, and
> NO, NO, NO. The creation days are not long periods in this view. The

OK, my mistake. But what you're arguing isn't unfamiliar - e.g., Philo.

> > b) rearrange the order of commands & fulfillments
> >then you can get a picture that looks a lot like a modern scientific
> description. But
> >then I think you've gotten quite far from Genesis 1 being a description of
> events as
> >they actually happened.
> THis is NOT a rearrangement of God's commands. IT IS A REARRANGEMENT OF

It's a rearrangement of commands & fulfillments together, in the sense I've
noted above. You're rearranging the chronology of Gen.1 - as most traditional attempts
to "harmonize 1 & 2 freely rearrange the chronology of Gen.2 to fit that of 1. It seems
to me that you're doing the reverse - which is neither more nor less legitimate.
> > I understand the doctrine of creation in relationship with modern science
> to
> >mean that space-time and matter were and are called into being by God's
> Word, and that
> >the development of the universe and life within it have taken place and
> are taking place
> >because of the continual cooperation of God's Logos with the rational
> patterns (logoi)
> >present in & with matter by virtue of God's creative acts. That view is a
> result of
> >reading Genesis 1 together with other biblical texts with the help of
> theologians like
> >Basil, and of looking at modern science in the light of Christian
> throught. If that is
> >the essence of what you mean then we have no basic disagreement, but I
> would not call
> >this an historical reading of Genesis 1.
> I find it odd that you, who advocate a nonhistorical reading of Genesis,
> would raise such an issue. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
> I wouldn't call it a traditional reading of Genesis. You are correct. But
> it is a historical reading of Genesis, since Basil read at least part of
> Genesis 1 in the way I do. He read the first day as being connected with
> eternity past.

1) The reason I raise the issue is because the whole question which gave rise
to this discussion is whether or not Gen.1 & Gen.2 can be "harmonized" with both of them
being read as historical narrative.
2) I find it odd to call this an "historical" reading of Gen.1 since a major
part of it occurs in pre-history.
2) As I've indicated, I think you're reading some things into Basil - which
doesn't _in itself_ invalidate your interpretation.

> > Here, of course, is our basic difference. I don't think that it's
> necessary to
> >read Gen.1 & 2 as historical narratives in order to remove doubt about God
> as creator.
> >In fact, the popular equation of "belief in creation" with the common ways
> of reading
> >these accounts as historical narrative (which I realize you are modifying
> significantly)
> >is one of the reasons why many modern people have doubts about creation.
> Now, maybe it isn't necessary to you. It is to others, like me and my YEC
> brothers. And IF Genesis 1 can be read in a fashion that avoids clashes
> with science, why shouldn't we do it as a strategic necessity if for no
> other reason? Why would we not prefer a historical view of Genesis. Do we
> want non-history for non-history's sake? Is non-history a necessity? I
> don't think so. But sometimes I think you do think it is a necessity.

As I said, I think you're really stretching the meaning of "historical" even
with your interpretation.

> > It's a solution. I wouldn't say it's perfect & I think it's a stretch to
> >call it an historical reading of Gen.1, but it's certainly a lot better
> than some
> >interpretations.
> At last! Thank you. An acknowledgement that it is a solution. I very much
> appreciate that. I really do. It has only take 3 years or so to get to
> this point. By the time I am 358 years old, I will have someone else
> acknowledge this. :-)
> And IF I ever called this a 'historical' reading of Genesis, I would stand
> corrected that it is NOT a historical reading of Genesis. I don't think I
> did, but who knows maybe you have a good search program and can find where
> I messed up like that.

OK, I'm puzzled. You've just emphasized your, & YEC's, preference for an
historical reading of Genesis. Earlier in this post you said your reading was not
"traditional" but was "historical." I understand that. Now at the end you say you're
NOT saying that the interpretation you propose of Gen.1 is historical. I agree, but I'm
not sure what you think you've done.

George L. Murphy