Christians and the interpretation of Genesis 1.

I tend to feel a bit out of my depths in matters of Creation and evolution. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, and I’m no Old Testament scholar. So, in both cases, I tend to have to rely on the expertise of others. I have to trust others. May they be wrong? Yes. May I be wrong? Certainly.

How we are to read the first few chapters of Genesis is one of these sorts of matters for me. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how we’re to read it. I do know that the Church hasn’t ever really had “a position” on Genesis 1 (for example). S. Augustine interpreted Gen. 1 literally*. Other of the Fathers interpreted it allegorically or spiritually.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with a “literal” reading, because I just do not think that is the thrust of the passage. To try to argue that we ought to read Genesis 1 historically, as it were (that is to say, God created in 6 24-hour days etc.), is to impose a particular view on the text. It feels rather uncomfortable to me, like a shoe that fits too tightly. I would take a similar sort of approach to the question of whether or not Adam and Eve were “real” historical figures. Certainly Adam plays a significant role in Paul’s theology for example. But does this mean that Paul must have understood Adam to be an actual historical figure? I may be less convinced than others on this point.

At any rate, I watched this short video clip today:

 

This reminded me of an Orthodox catechism I picked up recently. The authors took what I thought was an interesting approach to these sorts of questions:

[…]

Seeker: Then divine time and human time are not the same?

Sage: Of course not. God does not live in time, because it is He who created time, just as He created space. God exists “before all ages” and beyond time and space. That is why it is impossible to compare the discoveries of science and the revelations of the Bible, as some naive minds have tried to do, imagining that the author of Genesis wanted to write a treatise on geology or paleontology.

Seeker: Then who is right, science or the Bible?

Sage: The truth of the biblical revelation is not the same as the fragmentary and relative truths studied by science. Science studies the world of appearances, of fleeting phenomena, which can be measured in minutes and in meters, and which unfold in human time and space and Biblical revelation rises above time and space to God. For it is He who has created time, space, and everything which science discovers, just as He has created the human intelligence which has invented science itself.

Seeker: Then what is the truth we learn from the account of the creation of the world?

Sage: After studying the biblical account of creation, the faithful see nature with new eyes. We discover with wonder the beauty of the created order, the splendor of the Creator’s work, which is itself only a pale reflection of the ineffable beauty of the Creator Himself…

[…]

Seeker: You tell us that man was created by God in His image. But I am told that we are descended from apes.

Sage: That which God created “in the beginning,” as we said earlier, He created from nothing. But God did not create man from nothing; He created him “out of the earth” and everything which it contains. That is to say that in order to create man, God made use of nature as a whole, including its evolution. The ape and the fish are also of the earth, for man is the culmination of all creation, and in him all creation is summed up and recapitulated. But, in addition, He has given mankind life through His own breath, His own Spirit. It is this presence of God Himself illuminating humanity, making the light of His face shine upon us, which distinguishes human beings from apes and all other creatures. This presence of God, this breath of God, projects the image of God upon us and gives us a beauty and “crown of glory.” It makes us the ruler of all creation and responsible for it (see Gen 1:28-29; 2:19-20).

 

*There are problems with the term “literal”. This point is drawn out a bit in the embedded video.

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