Re: [asa] A few literal problems in Genesis

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 - 16:05:46 EDT

In discussing the Genesis creation stories & their possible relationships with science it's important to distinguish between the idea of mediated creation and that of biological evolution. The former is certainly the way Gen.1:11-12 in particular describe the creation of plants on land. I.e., God doesn't make them directly but commands the earth to "bring forth" vegetation. The picture, however, is not one of a gradual development of plants of the kind that modern evolutionary theory speaks of but simply of plants growing from the ground much as we see today.

Messenger, in his Evolution and Theology (Macmillan, New York, 1932), showed that a number of the church fathers understood Genesis to be teaching the mediated creation of living things. One does have to be careful about this - while the earth "brings forth" plants, the waters "swarm with living creatures" so that in the latter case there isn't a clear indication of any role of the waters themselves. The Septuagint, however, which the Greek fathers were working with, blurs this distinction.

In any case, mediated creation provides an opening for evolutionary ideas but it isn't evolution in itself. Neither of the creation stories has any idea of descent with modification. Of course if we've awakened from our concordist slumbers we won't worry about that.

I'm not as much of an expert on patristic exegeses of the creation stories as Ted suggests but with regard to the "day & night before the sun was created" issue, a couple of quotes may be helpful. In "The Hexaemeron" Basil says:

"And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night." Since the birth of the sun, the light that it diffuses in the air, when shining on our hemisphere, is day; and and shadow produced by its disappearance is night. But at that time it was not after the movement of the sun, but following this primitive light spread abroad in the air or withdrawn in a measure determined by God, that day came and was followed by night." (NPNF 2, VIII, p.64)

Similarly John of Damascus, in "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith," writes:

"When, therefore, in the first three days the light was poured forth and reduced at the divine command, both day and night came to pass. But on the fourth day God created the great luminary, that is, the sun, to have rule and authority over the day ..." (NPNF 2, IX, p.22)

On the other hand Augustine, at least in "The City of God" (NPNF 1, II, p.215), Augustine connects the division of light from darkness & the first day & night with his idea that the light of that first day was the angels, so that the division of light from darkness refers to the fall of the evil angels. How that is connected with days 2 & 3 isn't dealt with. I don't have his "Literal Interpretation of Genesis," in which this is probably dealt with in more detail, at hand.


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Received on Tue Mar 11 16:07:20 2008

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