Rorate Caeli

Does Vatican Council II Allow for Errors in Sacred Scripture?

Last year, Father Brian W. Harrison challenged the false "limited biblical inerrancy" teaching in a paper published in the Roman theological journal Divinitas. His paper is now available in an amplified form at the website of the Roman Theological Forum:

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely yes.

Jordanes said...

That's not much of an argument, Anonymous. Care to try to back that up by reference to and analysis of the magisterial texts, as Father Harrison has?

John Lamont said...

Here is the English translation of the Latin text of Dei Verbum from the Vatican website:

'11. ... Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text). (5: 5. cf. St. Augustine, "Gen. ad Litt." 2, 9, 20:PL 34, 270-271; Epistle 82, 3: PL 33, 277: CSEL 34, 2, p. 354. St. Thomas, "On Truth," Q. 12, A. 2, C.Council of Trent, session IV, Scriptural Canons: Denzinger 783 (1501). Leo XIII, encyclical "Providentissimus Deus:" EB 121, 124, 126-127. Pius XII, encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu:" EB 539.)

There are three things to be noted about this.

1). The first sentence above is a mistranslation of the Latin, a mistranslation that makes the meaning of this sentence open to a heterodox translation where the Latin is not. The Latin reads 'Cum ergo omne id, quod auctores inspirati seu hagiographi asserunt, retineri debeat assertum a Spiritu Sancto, inde Scripturae libri veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causa Litteris Sacris consignari voluit, firmiter, fideliter et sine errore docere profitendi sunt.' A faithful translation is 'Since everything that the inspired authors asserted must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, therefore the truths of the Scriptural books, which God willed to consign to the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation, must be held to teach firmly, faithfully, and without error.' Here the 'without error' qualifies the assertions made by the human authors, not the truths consigned to the Scriptures for the sake of our salvation.

2). The footnotes to the passage refer to documents in which the complete inerrancy of the Scriptures is clearly taught.

3). Even the wrong English translation logically implies the inerrancy of the Scriptures. It states a) that those truths which God willed to be put into the Scriptures for the sake of our salvation are true, and b) that everything in the Scriptures is for the sake of our salvation. From a) and b) it follows that everything in the Scriptures is true. The same argument can be applied a fortiori to the Latin text.

John Lamont said...

Here is the English translation of the relevant text of Dei Verbum from the Vatican website:

11 ...Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text). (Footnote 5: 5. cf. St. Augustine, "Gen. ad Litt." 2, 9, 20:PL 34, 270-271; Epistle 82, 3: PL 33, 277: CSEL 34, 2, p. 354. St. Thomas, "On Truth," Q. 12, A. 2, C.Council of Trent, session IV, Scriptural Canons: Denzinger 783 (1501). Leo XIII, encyclical "Providentissimus Deus:" EB 121, 124, 126-127. Pius XII, encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu:" EB 539.)

There are three points to be made about this text.

1) The footnotes all refer to texts that clearly teach complete biblical inerrancy.

(cont'd).

John Lamont said...

Biblical inerrancy and Dei Verbum cont'd:

2). The English version on the Vatican website mistranslates the Vatican original (something that happens for other texts as well), in which the crucial sentence is:

'Cum ergo omne id, quod auctores inspirati seu hagiographi asserunt, retineri debeat assertum a Spiritu Sancto, inde Scripturae libri veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causa Litteris Sacris consignari voluit, firmiter, fideliter et sine errore docere profitendi sunt.' Here it is the assertions of the human authors, not the truths that God willed to be consigned to the Scriptures for the sake of our salvation, that are qualified as teaching firmly, faithfully and without error.

3). Even in the English mistranslation it follows that the Scriptures are inerrant. For that translation states a) that all the passages in the Scrptures that are for the sake of our salvation are inerrant, and b) that every passage of the Scriptures is for the sake of our salvation. From a) and b) it follows logically that every passage in the Scriptures is for the sake of our salvation. This argument applies a fortiori to the original Latin.

Anonymous said...

Concerning Genesis. St Augustine asked whther the 7 days were literal or figurative. he then asks a number of questions that shows a literal interpretation poses many problems. He comments that the scriptures should not be used in a way that contradicts scientific knowledge. For example that the earth is flat when everyone knows it is spherical. He observes that doing this simply makes Christianity look absurd in the eyes of unbelievers. faith and reason shuold be in harmony and the message of Scripture is primarily spiritual truth. It is also obvious that the New Testament is not figurative but literal. Christ really did moracles and the use of eye witness accounts is used to show this.

Cosmos said...

Because what is asserted is what is inspired, the key question from the perspective of modern bilical scholars is what did the author intend to assert? Stated differently, what is the genre of the book?

Was the author writing history? Then the author will be inerrantly asserting historical facts. Was he writing prayers, psalms, or poetry? If so, he will be asserting truth by metaphor or analogy, which does not require a literal acceptance.

The first three chapters of Genesis are, arguably, a gray area where the intention of the author is not perfectly clear. It is my impression that the tradition favors reading Genesis as history, but there is not universal acceptance for that position, and there is certainly debate.

Confused modern scholars often claim something along the lines of that there are genres proper to religious writing in which religious truth is the only truth being asserted. These scholars are basically saying that there is a genre called mytholoogy where the author assert religious truths through a medium that seems like, but is not, history. Other books, like Job and Tobit are read as being from the fiction genre.

Joe B said...

Scripture says the Earth is flat?

Jordanes said...

No, but it readily can be (mis)interpreted as saying that the earth is flat if taken literally where the Scripture is not meant to be interpreted in a strictly literal sense.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Anon, the example citing Augustine and the 7 days of creation is hardly an argument for declaring that Sacred Scripture allows errors of any kind. In fact, to state so is heretical and if you truly believe such a thing you have lost the faith.

Do take some time to read Fr Brian Harrison's article.

In a nutshell, Apostolic Tradition renders four senses to Sacred Scripture and the literal is one of them. You would need to study the Fathers' understanding of the literal sense of scripture before contributing an opinion that questions the Apostolic deposit of faith.

Some great articles on this from Fr Brian Harrison on the "Living Tradition" website run by the Oblates of Wisdom.

Meanwhile, let those who know nothing or very little of the four senses of Sacred Scripture hold back on presuming errors in God's own word.

A little humility, please.

And regarding Vatican II, since Vatican does not make any dogmatic definitions, the Church's perennial and Divine teaching on the absolute inerrancy of Sacred Scripture was not "allowed" either. I speak not of the intentions of quasi-modernistic periti who lobbied for the wording in V2 documents to be ambiguous or confusing enough that they could be used by the internal enemies of the Church to make such an heretical claim. I speak of reading Vatican 2 in the continuity of Sacred Tradition, as advocated by Pope Benedict XVI, one of the arch-periti of the council himself.

Sincerely, MKT

Rick DeLano said...

Scripture certainly says that the Earth was created "in the beginning".

Is this also to be dismissed as a "misinterpretation", a literal reading which ought not be taken in a literal sense?

Have a care.

A solemn ecumenical Council has anathematized those who would contradict a unanimous interpretation of the Fathers...........(interpreted literally, of course)

Jordanes said...

So, the Holy Scriptures teach that the earth is flat rather than an orb?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jordanes,

not sure who your latest question is posed to.

But as St Robert Bellarmine stated with regards to questions regarding the *apparent* discrepancy between fact and our reading of the Scriptures, it would be our reading of the SCriptures that needs to be tweaked.

As such, for example, when the Sacred SCriptures speak of the Sun traversing the sky of the earth, this is literally true from a visual or geopositional perspective. That is, a man standing on the earth truly sees the sun travelling across the sky, although scientifically one might state that it only appears to do so because of the earth's rotation about its axis.

Similarly, the earth certainly does appear flat to a man standing on certain parts of it, although scientifically speaking one might state that it only appears so to a man because the earth is so massive in comparison to a man that its arc of curvature is hidden to such an infinitesimally small creature standing upon it.

An interesting *literal* interpretation of the Genesis account dealing with the apparent conundrum of the plants being created before the Sun, is that the Lord created and placed blue-green algae on the earth while there was still a thick methane atmosphere. As such, to someone standing on the earth on that day (the Lord HImself or the angels could have been describing the view of things from the surface of the earth on that particular day of creation), the plants (blue green algae are a recognized plant lifeform) would be on the earth, but the disk of the sun would not be visible through the thick atmosphere. Once the blue green algae converted the methane to an oxygen rich atmosphere, the disk of the Sun became apparent from the surface of the earth. This would be an example of a literal reading of a seemingly counter-natural event (plants being present on the earth before the sun), although one can posit other things e.g. that the Lord could have created a plant life that did not need the Sun. But this is where the role of the sciences are needed to build up our knowledge of and in service of the truth.

[My own personal note: No literal reading of Sacred Scripture could ever justify the Darwinian theory of human origins].
Further, There are two categories of the literal sense.

One of which factors in the use of parables - that is, when the Lord uses parables to teach us the truths of salvation, the parable itself may not be an historical event or person, but still communicates a literal truth and therefore still has a literal sense .

In this lay man's view, the assault on the dogma of the inerrancy of Sacred SCripture, which succeeded most visibly in our theological schools starting in 1962, is at the *heart* of the current apostasy, and the devastation of the Liturgy itself is only one of the many side effects of this assault.

Once the teachers, the priests and bishops began, for example, mocking faithful laypersons for believing literally in the Sacred Scriptures, as perennially taught within the Catholic Church, that was the trigger point for every manifestation of the apostasy that has afflicted the Church, Society and every Catholic family in the world.

For Once we are "liberated" to presume a priori and contrary to Sacred Tradition what the scribes of the Sacred SCriptures (I say scribes because the author is the same Holy Spirit, whereas the writers were numerous) intended to write, we have the universal weapon to destroy the Faith completely, and nothing can stand in the path of such an apostasy, whether it be liturgy or dogma of the faith or true morals practiced in daily Catholic living.

How else to explain that what the Church has always condemned, and Sacred SCripture alludes to as a sin crying out for Divine vengeance, as onanism indeed is, do we see 98% of Catholics today as practicing onanists? What mental gymnastics other than presuming a non-literal reading of the Sacred and Holy Writ leads to such a bizarre calculus?

Sincerely, MKT

Rick DeLano said...

"Once the teachers, the priests and bishops began, for example, mocking faithful laypersons for believing literally in the Sacred Scriptures, as perennially taught within the Catholic Church, that was the trigger point for every manifestation of the apostasy that has afflicted the Church, Society and every Catholic family in the world. "

Bravo. That sums it up. The surrender begins with the unanimous apostolic and patristic interpretation of Genesis One.

You know, the one that says:

"In the beginning God created the heavens AND the earth"??

Jordanes said...

the unanimous apostolic and patristic interpretation of Genesis One.

Trouble is, there isn't just one patristic interpretation of Genesis One.

Rick DeLano said...

"Trouble is, there isn't just one patristic interpretation of Genesis One."

Actually, there is only one patristic interpretation of Genesis 1.

Augustine tries some theological speculation in an attempt to fit the angels into Genesis 1:3. He admits this is his own speculation, so it cannot be a Tradition.

There is no patristic interpretation of the Days as anything other than what Scripture says they are: Six Days. Days, as in twenty four hour periods. Just like the Seventh Day is a twenty four hour period, called a sabbath, which "day" is to be observed for twenty four hours- after all, it is a "day"- every time this seventh day comes around.

Which would be, every seventh twenty four hour period.

After the six other twenty four hour periods.

Also known as "days".

The Church was never confused about this so long as she understood that scientific theories (especially scientific experiments that do not proceed from irrefutable experimental demonstration) do not serve to overturn the deposit of Faith.

As the Council of Trent wisely warns us, we are never to interpret Scripture in opposition to a unanimous interpretation of the Fathers.

What a catastrophe has befallen the Church, since we have neglected that warning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rick DeLano,

I was going to respond to Jordanes, but feel I also need to respond to your assertion.

There are as many patristic interpretations of Genesis 1 as there are fathers, but they do converge on the same perennial Catholic truths about creation.

The question of the duration represented by the days in Genesis is not as unanimous as you state however. The fathers were not unanimous that the days in Genesis 1 were actually sidereal days (~24 hour periods). St Augustine himself was of the opinion that there was a single instant of creation and that the 7 days represented 7 levels of that instantaneous creation. There are other instances such as in the prophecies of Daniel where the use of "days" and "weeks" refers to years and 7-year periods. Where the variance in interpretation comes for among the fathers is the simple notion that a day for the Lord can be a 1000 years, and a 1000 years can be a day. But that is not to say that the interpretation of Genesis 1 as meaning 7 sidereal days is not to be believed, just that a literal understanding of the days in Genesis 1 does not necessarily conclude that the days are sidereal 24 hour periods.

The creation of man by God from the earth and the creation of woman from man by God however have perennially always been literal interpretations of every father.

The modernistic tendency to dismiss Genesis 1-3 a priori as a myth or a fable, or to see in it only an allegory with only cursory literal import is undoubtedly a break with a universal patristic interpretation of Genesis.

The fathers had always applied the 4 senses to Sacred Scripture, the literal being the first of these senses. It is incumbent on any Catholic, if he is to hold without waiver, addition or deletion of a single iota, of the only faith that can save one's soul, to believe the literal sense of every word in Sacred Scripture. Seek and you shall find said the Lord and it is an honest and faithful seeking of what the literal sense of every word in Sacred Scripture holds that we will lead us to true knowledge. The sciences properly viewed can help us to understand more clearly the literal sense of the Word of God.


Sincerely, MKT

Rick DeLano said...

Dear MKT:

I thank you sincerely.

I note that you have not, however, provided a patristic source which contradicts the unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the Six Days of Genesis 1 are twenty four hour days.

St. Augustine, as I earlier pointed out, advanced a personal theological speculation in an attempt to account for a (perceived) lacunae in the text-an entirely unique, personal, novel theological speculation, for which there is no support anywhere among the Fathers, and which St. Augustine himself admits is a private theological speculation.

One does not advance such a private speculation as if it constituted a separate thread of Apostolic Tradition, which Tradition we recognize precisely because it is transmitted to us as a unanimous consensus of all the Fathers East and West.

It is a unanimous consensus, I am forced to insist, of the Fathers East and West, that the "days" in Genesis are exactly that.

Days.

Twenty four hour periods.

Six of them.

Followed by a seventh.

The sabbath.

Which is to be kept ever seventh day- that is, every seventh twenty four hour period.

For exactly twenty four hours.

Now it is of course true (and it is also irrelevant) that "day" can be employed in other senses, at other points in Scripture.

But that is not the question.

The question is whether there exists a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the "day" of Genesis 1 means a day- twenty four hours.

The answer is: "yes, there is a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the 'day' of Genesis 1 means a day- twenty four hours."

It would be easy to refute the above sentence.

Simply provide us evidence of a separate consensus among the Fathers.

If it does not exist, then I would appreciate that this fact also be acknowledged.

I think it is a very important fact, in light of Trent's definitive warning against interpretations of Scripture which contradict patristic consensus.

Indeed, one might even venture to suppose that the terrible disaster which has befallen our beloved Church, could perhaps find its genesis in just such a departure from Tradition...........

Anonymous said...

Dear Rick De Lano,

you make a valid point about patristics, and this is of course natural since the most natural reading of days in Genesis tend towards the 7 days of the week.

My original point was that the literal sense is always part and parcel of each part of the Word of God, and in that, I hope you can see that we agree that abandoning the literal sense of Scripture is or leads to heresy and an abandoning of the faith. This fact I have defended 3 times on this particular blog, so hopefully my intention is clear.

As to whether the only possible *literal* interpretation is that the 6 days of creation are sidereal 24 hour periods however, there is an interesting article on the same website that this blog was commenting on. The article can be found at: http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt141.html
Of particular interest on the literal sense of the day in Genesis are the following comments.

"On June 30, 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission replied to the following questions:
Whether, since it was not the intention of the sacred author, when writing the first chapter of Genesis, to teach in a scientific manner the innermost nature of visible things as well as the complete order of creation, but rather to furnish his people with a popular account, such as the common parlance of that age allowed, one, namely, adapted to the senses and to the mental preparation of the persons, we are strictly and always bound, when interpreting these affirmations, to seek for scientific exactitude of expression. Answer: In the negative (DS 3518).
Whether the word yôm (day), which is used in the first chapter of Genesis to describe and distinguish the six days, may be taken either in its proper sense as the natural day or in an improper sense as signifying a certain space of time; and whether free debate on this question is permitted among exegetes. Answer: In the affirmative (DS 3519)"

Either way, there is a literal sense of the word day, and it needs to be believed literally, and any one presuming to deny the literal truth of Sacred Scripture does so at his own eternal peril.

Finally, to your last comment that "Indeed, one might even venture to suppose that the terrible disaster which has befallen our beloved Church, could perhaps find its genesis in just such a departure from Tradition...........", I had already expressed my violent agreement with that premise in my previous post on July 26, 19:10 when I stated my opinion that "
Once the teachers, the priests and bishops began, for example, mocking faithful laypersons for believing literally in the Sacred Scriptures, as perennially taught within the Catholic Church, that was the trigger point for every manifestation of the apostasy that has afflicted the Church, Society and every Catholic family in the world."

Sincerely in the Word of God, MKT

Rick DeLano said...

Dear MKT:

Thank you for the citation of the PBC. It is a source of great difficulty for me.

On the one hand, a Saint, Pope Pius X, explicitly attributed His own authority to the statements of this commission, although the commission's authority has subsequently been downgraded, by His Holiness Pope Paul VI.

On the other hand the authority of this commission, even under St. Pope Pius X, is not sufficient to reverse a solemn ecumenical Council.

The Council of Trent, in its Fourth Session, binds us against any interpretation of Scripture which is contrary to a unanimous consensus of the Fathers:

"Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published."

So.

It is simply- I apologize again for insisting- it is simply an empirical fact that it is the unanimous consensus of the Fathers East and West that the "day" of Genesis 1 is exactly that- a day.

Twenty four hours.

The problem, MTK, is that Authority in all of its splendor can be arrayed against the notion that the day of Genesis 1 must certainly be interpreted to be 24 hours.

But not a bit of that Authority can overcome the simple empirical truth that there exists a unanimous consensus of the Fathers East and West that the day of Genesis 1 *is in fact 24 hours*.

The reason no one posts evidence *from the Fathers themselves* to the contrary- not you, not Jordanes, not the PBC- is that *there isn't any*.

Therefore the literal meaning of "day", as used in Genesis 1, is certainly "twenty four hours". There exists a unanimous consensus of the Fathers on this point.

It is true that the PBC allows a contrary interpretation.

It is not immediately apparent to me how one can grant the asent of Faith to the PBC teaching.

Perhaps loyal submission of will, to the extent that one admits it is improper to accuse the long-agers of pertinacious heresy in their splendidly effective campaign to re-signify the creation story of God Himself, so as to render it amenable to a modern scientific theory utterly unknown to the Church of all ages, and utterly foreign to our Faith, until our prelates became cowed by the Goliath of scientism.

And for what?

Science's "Big Bang" Theory is now in an advanced stage of collapse. It will not survive the observations presently described in scientific papers under the ironic term "Wilkinson Micorwave Anisotropy Probe Axis of Evil".

May God grant that we learn from this, that Faith is superior to Reason, and whenever Reason contradicts Faith, it will certainly be Reason that will be found lacking the fulness of Truth.

It is the duty of the Holy Catholic Church to preserve, to cling to, to hold fast to this Faith, even despite, or even in the face of, every supposed "scientific disproof" which shall ever be falsely advanced by the ingenuity of science until that Day.

Or so it seems to me.

Jordanes said...

It is simply- I apologize again for insisting- it is simply an empirical fact that it is the unanimous consensus of the Fathers East and West that the "day" of Genesis 1 is exactly that- a day. Twenty four hours.

If that is an empirical fact, it should be possible to demonstrate it by citing the Fathers whose testimony purportedly shows that through the ages it has been believed always, everywhere, and by all that the seven Days of Gen. 1-2 were 24-hour periods of time; that is, that said belief rises above the level of fallible common teaching. As MKT has pointed out, St. Augustine was not aware of any obligation to read the days of Creation Week as 24-hour days (though of course individual Fathers have erred in various matters). St. Pius X and his PBC also did not know of any unanimous consent of the Fathers teaching that the days of Creation Week were 24-hours.

I formerly believed in a Creation Week of seven 24-hour days, until further study enabled me to see serious problems with that interpretation. The most serious problem is that Gen. 1 shows God creating man as male and female on Day Six, but Gen. 2 shows the creation of Eve as happening at an indeterminate but by no means insignificant length of time after the creation of Adam. The Man and the Woman both were created on Day Six, but in Gen. 2 the Woman is not created until after the Man names the animals and starts to wonders why he, unlike them, has no female counterpart. Could all of that have happened in just a few hours on a Friday afternoon?

People have wrestled with this difficulty since before the time of Christ, as shown by the Book of Jubilees, which offers the explanation that Adam was created on Day Six while Eve was not created until Day Thirteen, exactly one week later (and similarly, Adam was not placed in Paradise until he was 40 days old and Eve did not enter Eden until she was 80 days old. Another explanation proposed by the ancient rabbis is that God created Adam originally as a hermaphrodite (thus interpreting "male and female he created them") and split him/her in two in order to create Eve. Now, I don't think any of those traditions is likely or supportable from the Mosaic text, but the fact that people came up with them at all shows their awareness of the difficulty in fitting the account in Gen. 2 together with the account in Gen. 1.

This suggests that Moses never intended the seven days of Creation Week to be read as 24-hour period of time -- and if he did not have that intention, it is not in conflict with the Catholic faith to propose that those days may represent periods of time much longer than 24 hours, even if the "seven periods of 24 hours" opinion was widespread in the past.

Rick DeLano said...

Jordanes quite correctly insists:

"If (a unanimous consensus of the Fathers to a twenty-four hour day in Genesis 1) is an empirical fact, it should be possible to demonstrate it by citing the Fathers whose testimony purportedly shows that through the ages it has been believed always, everywhere, and by all that the seven Days of Gen. 1-2 were 24-hour periods of time; that is, that said belief rises above the level of fallible common teaching."

You are so right. Let me begin by doing exactly as you say- demonstrating the unanimous consensus of the Fathers, who in fact always and everywhere believed exactly what I say- that the "day" in Genesis 1 is exactly that, a day. Twenty four hours. After six of them, there is a seventh day, a sabbath. Twenty four hours. This sabbath day is to be observed every seventh day- every seventh twenty four hours. And so on.

Then, in a separate post, I would like to show you a way out of your difficulties with regard to alleged contradictions in the text (you will, I promise you, be amazed, delighted, consoled, and filled with remorse at yourself for having allowed such an easy and utterly persuasive solution to have escaped your embrace, but that is all right. It has been the practice for several centuries now to explain away "contradictions" as if they do not really matter, rather than to exquisitely, rigorously, and definitively demolish all such claims, as the Fathers and Doctors considered themselves bound in conscience to do).

My, the list of Fathers is quite long. Let me post it immediately after this.

Rick DeLano said...

With grateful thanks to the original compiler Hugh Owens, the following list of Fathers includes names, dates of birth and of passing into eternal life, and the specific citation where the Father refers to the day in Genesis as a literal, twenty four hour period. If the Father is also a Doctor (there are many), this is indicated by a capital "D" after the name.

1. St. Justin Martyr
100-165
First Apology in Defense of the Christians
Hortatory Address to the Greeks, XXXIII
2. St. Irenaeus of Lyons
140-202
Against the Heresies 5,28,3
3. St. Clement of Alexandria
150-216
Stromata, Book VI,
Chp 16
4. St. Hippolytus of Rome 160-235 Genesis 1:5,1:6; ANF, vol.5. p.163
5. Julius Africanus
160-240 Fragment III
6. St. Theophilus of Antioch
circa 185-191 Autolycus 2,12
7. Lactantius
250-317 Divine Institutes 7,14
8. St. Archelaus of Cascus
d.280 Disputation with the Heretic Manes, 31
9. St. Athanasius (D)
295-373 Against the Arians, Discourse II, 19, 48;
10. Marius Victorinus
305-365
11. St. Ephraem the Syrian
306-373 (D) Commentary on Genesis 1:1, FC 91:74
12. St Peter of Alexandria
d.311 Fragment, Of the Soul and Body
13. St. Methodius of Olympus
d.311 Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse III, Ch2. Symposium, Discourse 7:5
14. St. Hilary of Poitiers (D)
315-368 On the Trinity, 12:16, 40
15. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (D)
315-387 Catechetical Lectures 12:5
16. St. Epiphanius of Salamis 315-403
Panarion 1:1
17. St. Basil of Caesarea (D)
329-379 Hexaemeron 2,8
18. St. Gregory of Nazianzus 329-389 (D)
Oration XLIII, Panegyric on St. Basil, 67
19. St. Gregory of Nyssa
335-394 Hexaemeron PG 44:68-69
20. St. Ambrose of Milan (D)
340-397 Hexaemeron 1:37 FC 42:42
21. St. John Chrysostom (D)
344-407 PG, Homily 3, col 35 Commentary on Genesis 1:6-8,9-19
22. St Jerome (D)
347-420 Commentary On The Epistle to Titus, Praise of St. Basil’s writings.
23. St Cyril of Alexandria (D)
376-444 Against Julian the Apostate, 2:27-28
24. Theodoret of Cyrus
393-457 Dialogue II, Eranistes
25. St. Peter Chrysologus (D)
400-450 Sermon extract, The Liturgy of Hours According Roman Rite, Vol.III
26. Pope St. Leo the Great (D)
400-461 Sermon On the Feast of the Nativity, 27:5
27. St. Gregory the Great (D)
540-604 Moralia in Iob, XXXII, xii, 16
28. St. Isidore of Seville (D)
560-636 Brehaut transl p.118 Chronicron
29. St. John Damascene (D)
676-749 Exact Composition of the Orthodox Faith, 2:7

The above compendium provides exactly what Jordanes quite reasonably requested: it is always and everywhere taught, in a unanimous consensus of the Fathers East and West, including Doctors and Popes and Saints, that the day of Genesis is........a day.

Next, to Jordanes' difficulties with the alleged "two creation stories in Genesis" (which turn out to be one Creation story told from the standpoint of two narrators, as we shall see).

Jordanes said...

Next, to Jordanes' difficulties with the alleged "two creation stories in Genesis"

Well, I've never had any difficulties with "two creation stories in Genesis," since there aren't two creation stories in Genesis. I have discussed the difficulty of trying to fit all that Moses related in Gen. 2 into a single day, and in particular the things that he related of Adam and Eve in Gen. 2 into a few hours on a friday afternoon. But I am eager to see the way out of this difficulty that you mention.

As for the roll of Church Fathers, I am examining each citation to see if they really affirm a Creation Week of seven 24-hour days (as opposed to quoting or handing on the words of Scripture that in six days God created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day). I'll post my findings when my examination is complete.

Rick DeLano said...

Jordanes:

It seems to me that it would, instead, be incumbent upon you to show that "day", as used by these Fathers in relation to Genesis One, means something *other* than "day".

Twenty-four hours.

Six of them.

Followed by a seventh, the sabbath.

Which is to be observed every seventh day- twenty four hours- for exactly......twenty four hours.

After all, St. Augustine's private speculation (advanced expressly *as* a private speculation apart from this unanimous interpretation of the Fathers) distinguishes his usage of "day", from that face-value, literal meaning of the word which is unanimously attested by the Fathers, and which is universally understood by Israel to refer to, for example, the "sabbath day" (seventh *day*).

This, for comparison, can be placed side by side against the concept of the "Lord's Day", adopted by the Church as the fulfillment of the Sabbath.

Thank you for clarifying the nature of your difficulty with the face-value reading of Genesis 2.

I will adjust my response accordingly......

Rick DeLano said...

“I formerly believed in a Creation Week of seven 24-hour days, until further study enabled me to see serious problems with that interpretation.”

>>The real problems come when we depart from the unanimous consensus of the Fathers, and start opening up the text to all sorts of fantastic notions.

“The most serious problem is that Gen. 1 shows God creating man as male and female on Day Six, but Gen. 2 shows the creation of Eve as happening at an indeterminate but by no means insignificant length of time after the creation of Adam.”

>>This is not even a problem, much less a serious one. The “indeterminate but by no means insignificant length of time” is no problem at all, just as long as it is less than one “day”- twenty four hours.

It is.

“The Man and the Woman both were created on Day Six,”

>>Hence no problem.......

“but in Gen. 2 the Woman is not created until after the Man names the animals and starts to wonders why he, unlike them, has no female counterpart. Could all of that have happened in just a few hours on a Friday afternoon?”

>>May I ask you why, exactly, you think it couldn’t have? First, remember it is “all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field” that Adam is naming. So, as distinct from the “creeping things” of Genesis 1:25, Adam is being asked to name the “kinds” of beasts, birds, and domesticable cattle.

Would it surprise you to know that Adam could have named 3,000 of these “kinds” in five hours, assuming 6 seconds for each kind?

Leaves all kinds of time over for getting sleepy and waking up minus a rib and plus a wife.

So there is no basis here for tossing overboard a unanimous consensus of the Fathers. Just as St. Augustine's insistence on fitting the angels into the Creation account somewhere or other provides no basis for tossing overboard a unanimous consensus of the Fathers.

Especially at the cost, ultimately, of a loss of any coherent message as to the actual meaning of the Creation account itself- we are now told everything from "its a retelling of the Babylonian creation myth" to "its just a structured balancing of opposites" to "it just reminds the captive Hebrews of how important it is to avoid the temptations to idolatry".

No wonder Faith in Scripture's veracity has been decimated.

Such limp-wristed equivocations certainly do not inspire the kind of confidence in God's Word which shines so brilliantly through the works of those several dozens of Fathers, Saints, and Doctors, who knew *exactly* what God was teaching us in Genesis One.

Which is, of course, exactly what He *said*.

Rick DeLano said...

“People have wrestled with this difficulty since before the time of Christ, as shown by the Book of Jubilees, which offers the explanation that Adam was created on Day Six while Eve was not created until Day Thirteen, exactly one week later (and similarly, Adam was not placed in Paradise until he was 40 days old and Eve did not enter Eden until she was 80 days old. Another explanation proposed by the ancient rabbis is that God created Adam originally as a hermaphrodite (thus interpreting "male and female he created them") and split him/her in two in order to create Eve. Now, I don't think any of those traditions is likely or supportable from the Mosaic text, but the fact that people came up with them at all shows their awareness of the difficulty in fitting the account in Gen. 2 together with the account in Gen. 1.”

>>None of this is relevant. It is beyond dispute that rabbis, and any authors of non-canonical books, are capable of departing radically, in their interpretation, from Tradition- the Faith once delivered- concerning the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis One.

It is also beyond dispute that much Apostolic Tradition- the Faith once delivered- is utterly implausible to the minds of many.

The hypostatic union, for example. Or the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the Mass.

Many very plausible objections have been raised against these and other Truths of our Holy Faith, and all of them strung together and laid out in sequence, from the murder of Abel to the end of Time, shall, all of them, in the end amount to infinitely less than a hill of beans.




“This suggests that Moses never intended the seven days of Creation Week to be read as 24-hour period of time”

>>Quite to the contrary, it suggests that many do not believe Moses' plain and Inspired words, nor the much more ancient sources from which he compiled them. But the Fathers did. And so did the Church, up until very recent times. When the Goliath of scientism appeared.


“-- and if he did not have that intention, it is not in conflict with the Catholic faith to propose that those days may represent periods of time much longer than 24 hours, even if the "seven periods of 24 hours" opinion was widespread in the past.”

>>Problem. There exists a unanimous consensus of the Fathers, not a “widespread opinion in the past”.

Second problem.

There is no possibility that the Church can tell us what Genesis means, with the Authority of the Fathers as Her guaranty of apostolicity, once She turns the “exegetes” loose with a warrant to construct some meaning which the Fathers never so much as suspected lay in the text.

Much less ever taught.

And all because we thought that science had proven Darwinian evolution, and then a “Big Bang”.

Both theories now collapse before our very eyes.

How wise are those who, in these terrible times, cling fast to the Traditions we have received with the certain and sure guaranty of St. Vincent of Lerins: “that which has been believed always, and everywhere, and by everyone”.

When St. Vincent wrote those words, there were no Catholics anywhere on earth who had the slightest doubt what the word “day” meant in Genesis 1. It meant, of course, “day”. Twenty four hour days. Six of them. Followed by a seventh, a “sabbath”. Which “sabbath” day was to be observed every seventh day- every seventh twenty four hours- for exactly.....twenty four hours.

Jordanes said...

As I mentioned above, I have been checking the roll of Church Fathers compiled by Hugh Owens and put forth by Mr. De Lano as evidence of a purported unanimous consensus of the Fathers that God created the heavens and the earth in six consecutive periods of 24 hours. In my previous studies of this subject, I had discerned no such succession of patristic testimony in favor of that interpretation of Gen. 1-2, but given the fallibility of human reason (and in particular, my own rational faculties), it's always important to approach a subject with a fair and open mind.

So far I have examined (or reexamined rather, as I've read them all before) only the listed citations from the Fathers of the second century A.D. As I expected, none of them speak to the questions of how long the days of Creation Week lasted or whether they were 24-hour days.

The first citation was of St. Justin Martyr's "First Apology in Defense of the Christians." No chapter was cited, however, but I suspected that it was supposed to be chapter 67, which is the only place in his First Apology where St. Justin mentions any of the days of Creation Week. He says:

"But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead."

St. Justin may well have believed that the days of Creation Week were 24-hour days, as was the Sunday on which Jesus rose from the dead -- but here he doesn't even address the question of what kind of "day" was Day One of God's creative acts.

The next citation is from St. Justin's "Hortatory Address to the Greeks," ch. XXXIII, in which St. Justin argues that Plato's idea of how Time came into existence was derived from the words of Moses in Genesis.

"And from what source did Plato draw the information that time was created along with the heavens? For he wrote thus: 'Time, accordingly, was created along with the heavens; in order that, coming into being together, they might also be together dissolved, if ever their dissolution should take place.' Had he not learned this from the divine history of Moses? For he knew that the creation of time had received its original constitution from days and months and years. Since, then, the first day which was created
along with the heavens constituted the beginning of all time (for thus Moses wrote, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' and then
immediately subjoins, 'And one day was made,' as if he would designate the whole of time by one part of it), Plato names the day 'time,' lest, if he mentioned the 'day,' he should seem to lay himself open to the accusation of the Athenians, that he was completely adopting the expressions of Moses. And from what source did he derive what he has written regarding the dissolution of the heavens? Had he not learned this, too, from the sacred prophets, and did he not think that this was their doctrine?"

Again, while St. Justin mentions Day One of Creation Week, he does not specify how long he thought that day lasted. His point here is not to establish how long Creation Week lasted, but to demonstrate that the divine revelation committed to Moses is not only true, but is compatible with Plato's teachings about the origin of time. St. Justin is not arguing that Day One was a usual 24-hour day, but quotes the Scripture in order to argue that when Moses wrote, "There was one day" (the Hebrew here literally means "one day," or "day one," not "the first day"), he was declaring that Time itself was created by God.

Neither of these passages from St. Justin can help establish a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the days of Creation Week were 24-hour days.

Jordanes said...

Next, the citation from St. Irenaeus of Lyons' "Against Heresies" 5.28.3:

"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: 'Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.' This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year."

Here St. Irenaeus argues that the entirety of human history would last for 6,000 years, beginning with Adam's creation and ending with the Second Coming of Christ, after which would come 1,000 years of Christ's reign on earth (the Chiliasm or Millennium). He looks to Creation Week as "a prophecy of what is to come," interpreting the six days as signs of so many thousands of years.

Did St. Irenaeus believe the days of Creation Week were 24-hour days. He may well have. On the other hand, for all we know, he may have applied the principle of "a day with the LORD is as a thousand years" to the days of Creation Week to identify those days (as some interpreters do today) not as 24-hour periods, but periods of 1,000 years. I have even encountered some who interpret God's words, "In the day that you eat of it, you shall die the death," as applying to Adam dying at the age of 930 years -- 70 years shy of 1,000, and thus, according to this interpretation, still within one of God's "days." I don't mention these interpretations because I believe them -- I don't -- but to suggest that St. Irenaeus may have favored those interpretations, and to show that this patristic citation does not help establish a consensus of the Fathers that the days of Creation Week lasted 24 hours.

Rick DeLano said...

Jordanes:

I certainly grant that your above posts provide us with persuasive evidence in favor of the veracity of that wise insight of the great Ogden Nash:

"A man convinced against his will/
is of the same opinion still."

I am very comfortable allowing our respective arguments to stand, and the interested observer (if any) to decide between them.

I thank you for your kind acquiescence in allowing me to make my points.

Jordanes said...

The next citation was St. Clement of Alexandria's "Stromata," Book VI, Ch. 16:

"And the fourth Word [i.e. Commandment] is that which intimates that the world was created by God, and that He gave us the seventh day as a rest, on account of the trouble that there is in life. For God is incapable of weariness, and suffering, and want. But we who bear flesh need rest. The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest--abstraction from ills--preparing for the
Primal Day, our true rest; which, in truth, is the first creation of light, in which all things are viewed and possessed. From this day the first wisdom and knowledge illuminate us. For the light of truth--a light true, casting no shadow, is the Spirit of God indivisibly divided to all, who are sanctified by faith, holding the place of a luminary, in order to the knowledge of real existences. By following Him, therefore, through our whole life, we become impassible; and this is to rest. Wherefore Solomon also says, that before heaven, and earth, and all existences, Wisdom had arisen in the Almighty; the participation of which--that which is by power, I mean, not that by essence--teaches a man to know by apprehension things divine and human. Having reached this point, we must mention these things by the way; since the discourse has turned on the seventh and the eighth. For the eighth may possibly turn out to be properly the seventh, and the seventh manifestly the sixth, and the latter properly the Sabbath, and the seventh a day of work. For the creation of the world was concluded in six days. For the motion of the sun from solstice to solstice is completed in six months--in the course of which, at one time the leaves fall, and at another plants bud and seeds come to maturity. And they say that the embryo is perfected exactly in the sixth month, that is, in one hundred and eighty days in addition to the two and a half, as Polybus the physician relates in his book On the Eighth Month, and Aristotle the philosopher in his book On Nature. Hence the Pythagoreans, as I think, reckon six the perfect number, from the creation of the world, according to the prophet, and call it Meseuthys and Marriage, from its being the middle of the even numbers, that is, of ten and two. For it is manifestly at an equal distance from both. . . . Thus the Lord, who ascended the mountain, the fourth, becomes the sixth, and is illuminated all round with spiritual light, by laying bare the power proceeding from Him, as far as those selected to see were able to behold it, by the Seventh, the Voice, proclaimed to be the Son of God; in order that they, persuaded respecting Him, might have rest; while He by His birth, which was indicated by the sixth conspicuously marked, becoming the eighth, might appear to be God in a body of flesh, by displaying His power, being numbered indeed as a man, but being concealed as to who He was. For six is reckoned in the order of numbers, but the succession of the letters acknowledges the character which is not written. In this case, in the numbers themselves, each unit is preserved in its order up to seven and eight. But in the number of the characters, Zeta becomes six and Eta seven. And the character having somehow slipped into writing, should we follow it out thus, the seven became six, and the eight seven. Therefore also man is said to have been made on the sixth day, who became faithful to Him who is the sign, so as straightway to receive the rest of the Lord's inheritance. Some such thing also is indicated by the sixth hour in the scheme of salvation, in which man was perfected. Further, of the eight, the intermediates are seven; and of the seven, the intervals are shown to be six. For that is another ground, in which seven glorifies eight, and the heavens declare to the heavens the glory of God. . . .

[Quote from St. Clement concluded in next post]

Jordanes said...

". . . That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated, and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: 'This is the book of the generation: also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth.' For the expression when they were created intimates an indefinite and dateless production. But the expression in the day that God made, that is, in and by which God made all things, and without which not even one thing was made, points out the activity exerted by the Son. As David says, 'This is the day which the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it;' that is, in consequence of the knowledge imparted by Him, let us celebrate the divine festival; for the Word that throws light on things hidden, and by whom each created thing came into life and being, is called Day."

In this chapter, St. Clement refers to and/or quotes from the Genesis account of Creation several times, including references to the primeval Sabbath and God's creation of man on the sixth day. However, just as we've seen with Sts. Justin and Irenaeus, St. Clement never hints at how long the days of Creation Week lasted. He mentions these things in order to present allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures, bringing out spiritual truths touching on salvation. St. Clement shows great interest in the mystical significance of the numbers six, seven, and eight, but shows no interest at all in the question of how long the days of Creation Week lasted. Did he believe they last 24 hours? It's possible, but it can't be established.

Jordanes said...

Continuing now with the citations from the commentary of St. Hippolytus of Rome "On Genesis":

"Gen. I. 5. And it was evening, and it was morning, one day. He did not say 'night and day,' but 'one day,' with reference to
the name of the light. He did not say the 'first day,' for if he had said the 'first' day, he would also have had to say that the 'second' day was made. But it was right to speak not of the 'first day,' but of 'one day,' in order that by saying 'one,' he might show that it returns on its orbit and, while it remains one, makes up the week."

"Gen. I. 6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water. On the first day God made what He made out of nothing. But on the other days He did not make out of nothing, but out of what He had made on the first day, by moulding it according to His pleasure."

With the commentary of St. Hippolytus we find the first explanation of the days of Creation Week that can be considered an interpretation of those days as ordinary days lasting 24 hours -- this is indicated by the reference to "one day" "returning on its orbit" to become another day, and so on, until you have a week of days.

Nevertheless even with these comments, we do not find a plain statement of how long the days of Creation Week lasted. In neither of these passages does St. Hippolytus explore that question even cursorily.

*****

The next citation is Fragment III of the early Christian historian Julius Africanus. Here is the entirety of Fragment III:

"Adam, when 230 years old, begets Seth; and after living other 700 years he died, that is, a second death. Seth, when 205 years old, begot Enos; from Adam therefore to the birth of Enos there are 435 years in all. Enos, when 190 years old, begets Cainan. Cainan again, when 170 years old, begets Malaleel; And Malaleel, when 165 years old; begets Jared; And Jared, when 162 years old, begets Enoch; And Enoch, when 165 years old, begets Mathusala; and having pleased God, after a life of other 200 years, he was not found. Mathusala, when 187 years old, begot Lamech. Lamech, when 188 years old, begets Noe."

Here Africanus enumerates the antediluvian chronology according to the Septuagint, which gives us a total of 2,262 years from the creation of Adam until the Flood (whereas the Masoretic numbers, followed by St. Jerome's Vulgate, yield a total of only 1,656 years).

There is nothing at all in Fragment III about the days of Creation Week, let alone how long those days lasted. I can only assume that this citation was included in the list by mistake.

Jordanes said...

The next citation is from St. Theophilus of Antioch's letter to Autolycus 2:12. Here is the entirety of book two, chapter twelve:

*****

"The Glory of the Six Days’ Work."

"Of this six days’ work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days’ work above narrated. Many writers indeed have imitated [the narration], and essayed to give an explanation of these things; yet, though they thence derived some suggestions, both concerning the creation of the world and the nature of man, they have emitted no slightest spark of truth. And the utterances of the philosophers, and writers, and poets have an appearance of trustworthiness, on account of the beauty of their diction; but their discourse is proved to be foolish and idle, because the multitude of their nonsensical frivolities is very great; and not a stray morsel of truth is found in them. For even if any truth seems to have been uttered by them, it has a mixture of error. And as a deleterious drug, when mixed with honey or wine, or some other thing, makes the whole [mixture] hurtful and profitless; so also eloquence is in their case found to be labour in vain; yea, rather an injurious thing to those who credit it. Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the 'Sabbath,' is translated into Greek the 'Seventh', a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation. And as for what the poet Hesiod says of Erebus being produced from chaos, as well as the earth and love which lords it over his [Hesiod’s] gods and men, his dictum is shown to be idle and frigid, and quite foreign to the truth. For it is not meet that God be conquered by pleasure; since even men of temperance abstain from all base pleasure and wicked lust."

*****

Here, after having quoted the whole of the Genesis account of Creation Week in chapter 11, St. Theophilus upholds the truth of what God has revealed through Moses about His creation, against the varying opinions and myths of the pagans. But, as with the Church Fathers we have so far examined, St. Theophilus does not enter into the question of how long the days of Creation Week lasted. On the contrary, he insists, "Of this six days’ work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days’ work above narrated."

Thus far, through the end of the second century A.D., we have not found any clear patristic teaching on the length of the days of Creation Week. I will next examine the citations of the third century Fathers in the list.

Jordanes said...

Mr. De Lano, the last comment of yours of which I am aware is timestamped 30 July, 2010 04:41. It's nestled between my comment on St. Irenaeus and my comment on St. Clement of Alexandria.

Rick DeLano said...

Ahh, thank you. I apologize. I see it now. I would, in light of your expressed intent to respond to each citation, prefer to address certain of your observations, even those advanced only thus far.

However it would be best, I think, to allow you to complete your intended responses.

At that time I would appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Jordanes said...

Of course.

I'll probably try to respond to you above comments when I finish the survey of Hugh Owens' roll of Church Fathers.

Jordanes said...

The next Father in the list is Lactantius, Book 7, Chapter 14 of his "Divine Institutes."

"Chapter 14. Of the First and Last Times of the World.

"But we, whom the Holy Scriptures instruct to the knowledge of the truth, know the beginning and the end of the world, respecting which we will now speak in the end of our work, since we have explained respecting the beginning in the second book. Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed, and that when this number is completed the consummation must take place, and the condition of human affairs be remodelled for the better, the proof of which must first be related, that the matter itself may be plain. God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works. But this is the Sabbath day, which in the language of the Hebrews received its name from the number, whence the seventh is the legitimate and complete number. For there are seven days, by the revolutions of which in order the circles of years are made up; and there are seven stars which do not set, and seven luminaries which are called planets, whose differing and unequal movements are believed to cause the varieties of circumstances and times.

"Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years. For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows, who says 'In Your sight, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day.' And as God laboured during those six days in creating such great works, so His religion and truth must labour during these six thousand years, while wickedness prevails and bears rule. And again, since God, having finished His works, rested the seventh day and blessed it, at the end of the six thousandth year all wickedness must be abolished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years; and there must be tranquillity and rest from the labours which the world now has long endured. But how that will come to pass I will explain in its order. We have often said that lesser things and things of small importance are figures and previous shadowings forth of great things; as this day of ours, which is bounded by the rising and the setting of the sun, is a representation of that great day to which the circuit of a thousand years affixes its limits.

"In the same manner also the fashioning of the earthly man held forth to the future the formation of the heavenly people. For as, when all things were completed which were contrived for the use of man, last of all, on the sixth day, He made man also, and introduced him into this world as into a home now carefully prepared; so now on the great sixth day the true man is being formed by the word of God, that is, a holy people is fashioned for righteousness by the doctrine and precepts of God. And as then a mortal and imperfect man was formed from the earth, that he might live a thousand years in this world; so now from this earthly age is formed a perfect man, that being quickened by God, he may bear rule in this same world through a thousand years. But in what manner the consummation will take place, and what end awaits the affairs of men, if any one shall examine the divine writings he will ascertain. But the voices also of prophets of the world, agreeing with the heavenly, announce the end and overthrow of all things after a short time, describing as it were the last old age of the wearied and wasting world. But the things which are said by prophets and seers to be about to happen before that last ending comes upon the world, I will subjoin, being collected and accumulated from all quarters."

Jordanes said...

Here Lactantius expresses his Millenarian views, identical to those held by Sts. Justin and Irenaeus, and many other early Church Fathers. Belief in a Millennial reign of Christ on earth following His second coming long ago fell out of favor, and I believe it has been rejected as a misinterpretation of St. John's Apocalypse.

Be that as it may, Lactantius, like St. Irenaeus did before him, bases his belief in the Chiliasm, and his belief that human history prior to the Second Coming would last 6,000 years, on the divine revelation of Creation Week. In his discussion, Lactantius does seem to indicate a belief that the days of Creation Week were of normal length. That said, he doesn't explicitly say how long he thought those days lasted, since his point is not to delve into the nature of Creation Week, but to express his belief in a 6,000-year course of human history to be followed by a seventh millennium, a mystical Sabbath (and in particular, to express his belief that the Second Coming would happen soon).

I would observe at this point that there could be an analogy to be drawn between early Fathers who believed (or may have believed) in a Creation Week of seven 24-hour days, and the very widespread belief in the early Church in a post-Second Coming Millennium. Not all early Christians believed in the Chiliasm (as, if I remember correctly, St. Justin indicates), and I think the Roman Church didn't accept that interpretation of the Apocalypse. Later, St. Augustine presented an interpretation of Rev. 20 that in due time supplanted or overcame the earlier Chiliastic beliefs. It is also St. Augustine's contemplation that could indicate an absence of a unanimous patristic consensus on the days of Creation Week. Certainly, as we have observed in this discussion, St. Pius X, no Modernist or crypto-Modernist, and his PBC were unaware of any such consensus.

But to continue with this examination of the Fathers, next I'll look at St. Archelaus of Cascus.

Jordanes said...

Here is the passage cited from St. Archelaus of Cascus' "Disputation with the Heretic Manes," no. 31:

"Listen also to what I have to say on this other expression which has
been adduced, viz., 'Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the law.' My view of this passage is that Moses, that illustrious servant of God, committed to those who wished to have the right
vision, an emblematic law, and also a real law. Thus, to take an example, after God had made the world, and all things that are in it, in the space of six days, He rested on the seventh day from all His works; by which statement I do not mean to affirm that He rested because He was fatigued, but that He did so as having brought to its perfection every creature which He had resolved to introduce. And yet in the sequel it, the new law, says: 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' Does that mean, then, that He is still making heaven, or sun, or man, or animals, or trees, or any such thing? Nay; but the meaning is, that when these visible objects were perfectly finished, He rested from that kind of work; while, however, He still continues to work at objects invisible with an inward mode of action, and saves men. In like manner, then, the legislator desires also that every individual amongst us should be devoted unceasingly to this kind of work, even as God Himself is; and he enjoins us consequently to rest continuously from secular things, and to engage in no worldly sort of work whatsoever; and this is called our Sabbath."

Jordanes said...

Archelaus here brings up the biblical account of Creation Week to explain the difference between the Christian attitude and approach to the Old Testament as opposed to the hostile approach of Manes. He does not insist that the days of Creation Week were 24 hours in length. Instead, he focuses on the meaning and typological importance of the Old Testament Sabbath and its relationship to God's rest at the end of Creation Week and to the spiritual rest which fulfills the Old Covenant Sabbath.

Did St. Archelaus believe that the days of Creation Week had to be 24-hour days? Perhaps, but perhaps not. We can see this by considering his calling the Law of Moses an "emblematic law." At this point the old Schaff edition of the Ante-Nicene Fathers supplies this footnote:

"The phrase is imaginariam legem. On this expression there is a note in Migne, which is worth quoting, to this effect: 'Archelaus calls the Old Testament an emblematic or imaginary law, because it was the type or image of a future new law. So, too, Petrus de Vineis, more than once in his Epistles, calls a messenger or legate a homo imaginarius, as Du Cange observes in his Glossary, because he represents the person by whom he is sent, and, as it were, reflects his image. This word is also used in a similar manner by the old interpreter of Evagrius the monk, in the Disputation between Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, and Simon the Jew, ch. 13, where the Sabbath is called the requies imaginaria of that seventh day on which God rested. Hence Archelaus, in his answer to the presbyter Diodorus, ch xli. beneath, devotes himself to proving that the Old Testament is not to be rejected, because, like a mirror, it gives us a true image of the new law."

If the weekly Sabbath day of the Jews is an emblem or image of the primeval Sabbath of Creation Week, there is no need to see that primeval Sabbath as having lasted for 24 hours the way the weekly Jewish Sabbath does. Indeed, even if God were limited by time the way His Creation is, He nevertheless does not "rest" at all. In speaking of God resting from His labors, the Scriptures do not mean that God did not do any work on a certain day, or that He benefited from the refreshment and relaxation of a break. It means He completed the work of creation and was pleased with His handiwork. That primeval Sabbath did not have a terminus (as is indicated by the fact that Moses did not write of that day, "And the evening and the morning were the seventh day."). It was not a 24-hour day.

And if that day did not last only 24 hours, the other days also need not have lasted 24 hours. The fact that the Sabbath and the weekly cycle are a memorial of Creation Week does not require us to interpret Creation Week as seven consecutive periods of 24 hours.

Jordanes said...

Moving on now to the cited Fathers of the fourth century A.D., here is the passage referred to from St. Athanasius the Great's "Against the Arians," Discourse II, 19, 48:

"And all the visible creation was made in six days: in the first, the light which He called day; in the second the firmament; in the third, gathering together the waters, He bared the dry land, and brought out the various fruits that are in it; and in the fourth, He made the sun and the moon and
all the host of the stars; and on the fifth, He created the race of living things in the sea, and of birds in the air; and on the sixth, He made the quadrupeds on the earth, and at length man."

St. Athanasius gives a resume of Creation Week in the context of his argument against Arius' claim that the Son is a creature. Thus, as with all the Fathers before him, he does not explicitly declare that the days of Creation Week were 24 hours in length, even if that is what he believed. It wasn't the topic at hand, so he had no reason to address that question.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is another Father of the fourth century A.D., Marius Victorinus (St. Victorinus of Petau), who wrote a treatise "On the Creation of the World." Toward the beginning and at the end of his treatise, he said:

"In the beginning God made the light, and divided it in the exact measure of twelve hours by day and by night, for this reason, doubtless, that day might bring over the night as an occasion of rest for men's labours; that, again, day might overcome, and thus that labour might be refreshed with this alternate change of rest, and that repose again might be tempered by the exercise of day. . . . The day, as I have above related, is divided into two parts by the number twelve--by the twelve hours of day and night; and by these hours too, months, and years, and seasons, and ages are computed. Therefore, doubtless, there are appointed also twelve angels of the day and
twelve angels of the night, in accordance, to wit, with the number of hours. For these are the twenty-four witnesses of the days and nights which sit before the throne of God, having golden crowns on their heads, whom the
Apocalypse of John the apostle and evangelist calls elders, for the reason that they are older both than the other angels and than men."

Whatever one thinks of his associating the 24 heavenly presbyters in the Apocalypse with the 24 hours of the day, St. Victorinus hardly be more explicit in declaring that the days of Creation Week were 24 hours in length. Many if not all of the previous Fathers on Hugh Owens' list probably held the same opinion, but St. Victorinus is the first on Owens' list to have anything to say about how long those days lasted -- and he says they were not symbolic days, but natural days.

Jordanes said...

The next Church Father on the list, St. Ephraem the Syrian, expressed the same opinion in his "Commentary on Genesis." Here are the relevant passages of his commentary:

"[Moses] then wrote about the work of the six days that were created by means of a Mediator who was of the same nature and equal in skill to the Maker. And after [Moses] said, 'This is the book of the generations of heaven and
earth,' he turned back and recounted those things that he had left out and not written about in his first account. . . .

". . . 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' that is, the
substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth. So let no one think that there is anything allegorical in the works of the six days. No one can rightly say that the things that pertain to these days were symbolic, nor can one say that they were meaningless names or that other things were
symbolized for us by their names. Rather, let us know in just what manner heaven and earth were created in the beginning. They were truly heaven and earth. There was no other thing signified by the names 'heaven' and 'earth.'
The rest of the works and the things that followed were not meaningless significations either, for the substances of their natures correspond to what their names signify. . . . .

"After one night and one day were completed, the firmament was created on the second evening and henceforth its shadow rendered service for all subsequent nights. Therefore, heaven and earth were created on the evening of the first night. Along with the abyss that was created, there were also created those clouds which, when they were spread out, brought about the requisite night. After their shadow had served for twelve hours, light was created beneath
them and the light disperse their shadow that had been spread over the waters all night. . . .

"After [Moses] spoke of heaven and earth, of the darkness, the abyss and the wind that came to be at the beginning of the first night, he then turned to speak about the light that came to be at dawn of the first day. At the end of the twelve hours of that night, the light was created between the clouds and the waters and it chased away the shadow of the clouds that were overshadowing the waters and making them dark. For Nisan was the first month; in it the number of the hours of day and night were equal. The light
remained a length of twelve hours so that each day might also obtain its [own] hours just as the darkness had obtained a measured length of time. Although the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, the day and the night of the first day were each completed in twelve hours."

****

If St. Ephraem's words, "So let no one think that there is anything allegorical in the works of the six days. No one can rightly say that the things that pertain to these days were symbolic," had stood alone, they would have been a strong indication that he believed the days of Creation Week were 24-hour days. However, standing alone they would not have settled the matter, because he only referred to "the works of the six days," not the days themselves. His point is to exclude the erroneous allegorical hermeneutics of the Gnostics and Manichaeans and Bardaisanites and thus to uphold the literal truth of the Genesis account.

However, those words do not stand alone -- later in the commentary he proceeds to explicitly declare that the days of Creation Week lasted 24 hours, just as St. Victorinus had said.

We now have two early Fathers testifying to the interpretation of the days of Creation Week as lasting 24 hours.

Jordanes said...

Having found two Church Fathers who expressed belief in the "24-hour day" interpretation of Creation Week, let's consider the next few names on Hugh Owens' list.

St. Peter of Alexandria (died A.D. 311) wrote a treatise "Of the Soul and Body" in opposition to Origen's heretical belief in the preexistence of the soul. Only three fragments of it survive, and Hugh Owens claims in one of the three fragments, St. Peter says the days of Creation Week lasted 24 hours. Here are all three fragments:

"The things which pertain to the divinity and humanity of the Second Man from heaven, in what has been written above, according to the blessed apostle, we have explained; and now we have thought it necessary to explain the things which pertain to the first man, who is of earth and earthy, being about, namely, to demonstrate this, that he was created at the same time one and the same, although sometimes he is separately designated as the man external and internal. For if, according to the Word of salvation, He who made what is without, made also that which is within, He certainly, by one operation, and at the same time, made both, on that day, indeed, on
which God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;' whence it is manifest that man was not formed by a conjunction of the body with a certain pre-existent type. For if the earth, at the bidding of the Creator, brought forth the other animals endowed with life, much rather did the dust which God took from the earth receive a vital energy from the will and operation of God. . . Wretch that I am! I have not remembered that God observes the mind, and hears the voice of the soul. I turned consciously to sin, saying to myself, God is merciful, and will bear with me; and when I was not instantly smitten, I ceased not, but rather despised His forbearance, and exhausted the long-suffering of God."

In these fragments, St. Peter never mentions Creation Week or says anything about how long the days of that Week lasted. This is not surprising, since that question has nothing to do with the topic he was writing about. In the first fragment he does refer to "that day" when God created man, but that of itself does not constitute an affirmation that "that day" lasted 24 hours, even if that is what St. Peter believed.

Jordanes said...

The next patristic citations are from St. Methodius of Olympus' "Banquet of the Ten Virgins," Discourse III, Ch. 2; and from his Symposium, Discourse 7:5. In fact, "Symposium" IS the "Banquet of the Ten Virgins" (symposium means "banquet"), so these are two passages from the same work. Here are the relevant passages from "Banquet," first from Discourse III and then from Discourse VII:

"Chapter 2. The Digressions of the Apostle Paul; The Character of His Doctrine: Nothing in It Contradictory; Condemnation of Origen, Who Wrongly Turns Everything into Allegory.

"For it is a dangerous thing wholly to despise the literal meaning, as has been said, and especially of Genesis, where the unchangeable decrees of God for the constitution of the universe are set forth, in agreement with which, even until now, the world is perfectly ordered, most beautifully in accordance with a perfect rule, until the Lawgiver Himself having re-arranged it, wishing to order it anew, shall break up the first laws of nature by a fresh disposition. But, since it is not fitting to leave the demonstration of the argument unexamined--and, so to speak, half-lame--come let us, as it were completing our pair, bring forth the analogical sense, looking more deeply into the Scripture; for Paul is not to be despised when he passes over the literal meaning, and shows that the words extend to Christ and the Church.

"Chapter 5. The Sixty Queens: Why Sixty, and Why Queens; The Excellence of the Saints of the First Age.

"In addition to these matters, there is this also to be considered, so that nothing may escape us of things which are necessary, why He said that the queens were sixty, and the concubines eighty, and the virgins so numerous as not to be counted from their multitude, but the spouse one. And first let us speak of the sixty. I imagine that He named under the sixty queens, those who had pleased God from the first-made man in succession to Noah, for this reason, since these had no need of precepts and laws for their salvation, the creation of the world in six days being still recent. For they remembered that in six days God formed the creation, and those things which were made in paradise; and how man, receiving a command not to touch the tree of knowledge, ran aground, the author of evil having led him astray. Genesis 3:3 Thence he gave the symbolic name of sixty queens to those souls who, from the creation of the world, in succession chose God as the object of their love, and were almost, so to speak, the offspring of the first age, and neighbours of the great six days' work, from their having been born, as I said, immediately after the six days. For these had great honour, being associated with the angels, and often seeing God manifested visibly, and not in a dream. For consider what confidence Seth had towards God, and Abel, and Enos, and Enoch, and Methuselah, and Noah, the first lovers of righteousness, and the first of the first-born children who are written in heaven, being thought worthy of the kingdom, as a kind of first-fruits of the plants for salvation, coming out as early fruit to God. And so much may suffice concerning these."

*****

In neither of these passages does St. Methodius speak of the days of Creation Week lasting for 24 hours. However, he opposes Origen's method of interpreting Genesis 1 allegorically and insists on the truth of the literal sense, and he refers to the biblical account of God's six days of creative work. That suggests that he probably thought of those days as lasting for 24 hours, though that can't be positively affirmed.

Jordanes said...

Now, interestingly enough, Hugh Owens failed to include in his list another passage from St. Methodius that seems relevant to this question. It is Fragment IX from St. Methodius' work "On Things":

"[Methodius] says that Origen, after having fabled many things concerning the eternity of the universe, adds this also: Nor yet from Adam, as some say, did man, previously not existing, first take his existence and come into the world. Nor again did the world begin to be made six days before the creation of Adam. But if any one should prefer to differ in these points, let him first say, whether a period of time be not easily reckoned from the creation of the world, according to the Book of Moses, to those who so receive it, the voice of prophecy here proclaiming: 'You are God from everlasting, and world without end.... For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night.' For when a thousand years are reckoned as one day in the sight of God, and from the creation of the world to His rest is six days, so also to our time, six days are defined, as those say who are clever arithmeticians. Therefore, they say that an age of six thousand years extends from Adam to our time. For they say that the judgment will come on the seventh day, that is in the seventh thousand years. Therefore, all the days from our time to that which was in the beginning, in which God created the heaven and the earth, are computed to be thirteen days; before which God, because he had as yet created nothing according to their folly, is stripped of His name of Father and Almighty. But if there are thirteen days in the sight of God from the creation of the world, how can Wisdom say, in the Book of the Son of Sirach: 'Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of eternity? ' This is what Origen says seriously, and mark how he trifles."

****

In this passage, St. Methodius again takes on certain erroneous or heretical opinions of Origen, and in the process he refers to the biblical account of Creation Week. Of course, St. Methodius also expresses the erroneous "six days of Creation Week prefigure six thousand years of human history" opinion that we earlier found in St. Irenaeus of Lyons. St. Methodius, like St. Irenaeus, was a Chiliast. It is unclear from this text whether or not St. Methodius thought of the "thirteen days" as all lasting a thousand years, or rahter as seven 24-hour days followed by six thousand-year days.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is St. Hilary of Poitiers's treatise "On the Trinity," 12:16, 40.

"16. . . . Whence also it is a natural property of each class of things by virtue of actual heredity, that it once was not and then began to be, beginning after time began, and existing within time. And while all existing things have an origin later than that of time, their causes also, in their turn, were once nonexistent, being born from things which once were not. Even Adam, the first parent of the human race, was formed from the earth, which was made out of nothing, and after time, that is to say, after the heaven and earth, and the day and the sun, moon and stars, and he had no first beginning in being born, and began to be when he once had not been."

"40. For the preparation for creation is perpetual and eternal: nor was the frame of this universe actually made by isolated acts of thought, in the sense that first the heaven was thought of, and afterwards there came into God's mind a thought and plan concerning the earth; that He thought of each part singly, so that first the earth was spread out as a plain, and then through better counsels was made to rise up in mountains, and yet again was diversified with hills, and in the fourth place was also made habitable even in the heights; that so the heaven was prepared and the abode of God set apart, and huge clouds in the upper air held the exhalations caught up by the winds; then afterwards sure springs began to run under the heaven, and, last of all, the earth was made firm with strong foundations. For Wisdom declares that it is prior to all these things. But since all things under the heaven were made through God, and Christ was present at the fashioning of the heaven, and preceded even the eternity of the heaven which was prepared, this fact does not allow us to think in respect to God of disconnected thoughts on details, since the whole preparation of these things is co-eternal with God. For although, as Moses teaches, each act of creation had its proper order—the making the firmament solid, the laying bare of the dry land, the gathering together of the sea, the ordering of the stars, the generation by the waters and the earth when they brought forth living creatures out of themselves; yet the creation of the heaven and earth and other elements is not separated by the slightest interval in God's working, since their preparation had been completed in like infinity of eternity in the counsel of God."

****

In these passages, St. Hilary discusses aspects of the doctrine of Creation, but does not even mention the "six days" or explicitly refer to Creation Week, let alone delve into how long the days of Creation Week may have lasted. Once again, these citations do not help to establish a consensus of the Fathers regarding the length of the days of Creation Week.

Jordanes said...

The next patristic citation on the list is St. Cyril of Jerusalem's "Catechetical Lectures," 12:5 --

"If then you seek the cause of Christ's coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures. In six days God made the world: but the world was for man. The sun however resplendent with bright beams, yet was made to give light to man, yea, and all living creatures were formed to serve us: herbs and trees were created for our enjoyment. All the works of creation were good, but none of these was an image of God, save man only. The sun was formed by a mere command, but man by God's hands: Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness. A wooden image of an earthly king is held in honour; how much more a rational image of God? But when this the greatest of the works of creation was disporting himself in Paradise, the envy of the Devil cast him out. The enemy was rejoicing over the fall of him whom he had envied: would you have had the enemy continue to rejoice? Not daring to accost the man because of his strength, he accosted as being weaker the woman, still a virgin: for it was after the expulsion from Paradise that Adam knew his wife."

****

St. Cyril affirms that God made the world in six days, but as with most of the Fathers we have examined, he does not explicitly say anything about how long those days lasted.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is St. Epiphanius of Salamis' "Panarion" 1:1 --

"First, the mothers and original names of all the sects, from which five mothers the others sprang. And these are the first four: The first is Barbarism, a sect which is underived and lasted from Adam's time for ten generations until Noah. It has been called Barbarism because the people of that time had no leader or common consensus. Everyone was in agreement with himself instead and served as a law for himself, according to the inclination of his own will."

St. Epiphanius mentions the ten generations from Adam to Noah, but does not refer to the six days of Creation Week nor how long he thought those days lasted. This citation is like that of Julius Africanus' Fragment III -- it obviously does not belong in the list, because, like the fragment of Africanus, it pertains only to the antediluvian genealogy rather than the account of Creation Week.

Jordanes said...

A follow-up on St. Epiphanius. . . .

I found a website that includes many of the same patristic citations as found in Hugh Owens' list, and it gives the following quote from St. Epiphanius:

"Adam, who was fashioned from the earth on the sixth day and received breath, became a living being (for he was not, as some suppose, begun on the fifth day, and completed on the sixth; those who say have the wrong idea), and was simple and innocent, without any other name." (Panarion 1:1, translated by Phillip R. Amidon).

Either the Amidon translation of the Panarion numbers things differently than the translation I consulted, or else the citation of "Panarion 1:1" is erroneous. I am pretty confident that it is the latter.

In any case, this quote from St. Epiphanius does suggest an interpretation of the days of Creation Week as days of ordinary length -- though it does not make that explicit.

Jordanes said...

The next patristic citation on the list is St. Basil of Caesarea's "Hexaemeron" 2:8. Here is that passage and all of the surrounding context (emphasis added):

"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 the 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.

"And the evening and the morning were the first day." Evening is then the boundary common to day and night; and in the same way morning constitutes the approach of night to day. It was to give day the privileges of seniority that Scripture put the end of the first day before that of the first night, because night follows day: for, before the creation of light, the world was not in night, but in darkness. It is the opposite of day which was called night, and it did not receive its name until after day. Thus were created the evening and the morning. Scripture means the space of a day and a night, and afterwards no more says day and night, but calls them both under the name of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture. Everywhere the measure of time is counted by days, without mention of nights. "The days of our years," says the Psalmist. "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been," said Jacob, and elsewhere "all the days of my life." Thus under the form of history the law is laid down for what is to follow.

And the evening and the morning were one day. Why does Scripture say "one day" not "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.

(continued . . .)

Jordanes said...

(St. Basil, concluded . . .)

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," 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." 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. 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."

But, whilst I am conversing with you about the first evening of the world, evening takes me by surprise, and puts an end to my discourse. May the Father of the true light, Who has adorned day with celestial light, Who has made the fire to shine which illuminates us during the night, Who reserves for us in the peace of a future age a spiritual and everlasting light, enlighten your hearts in the knowledge of truth, keep you from stumbling, and grant that "you may walk honestly as in the day." Thus shall you shine as the sun in the midst of the glory of the saints, and I shall glory in you in the day of Christ, to Whom belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Jordanes said...

St. Basil's commentary seems to suggest that the first day of Creation Week may have been of an indeterminate (or undeterminable) length -- or he may only have been indicated that the length of a day was determined by God. Further on St. Basil does mention the 24-hour length of the day, indicating a belief that the days of that week were of ordinary length.

This would, then, be the third Father in this list who testifies to a belief that the days of Creaton Week were 24-hour days.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is St. Gregory Nazianzen's Oration XLIII, his Panegyric on St. Basil, 67:

"I will only say this of [St. Basil]. Whenever I handle his Hexaemeron, and take its words on my lips, I am brought into the presence of the Creator, and understand the words of creation, and admire the Creator more than before, using my teacher as my only means of sight. Whenever I take up his polemical works, I see the fire of Sodom, by which the wicked and rebellious tongues are reduced to ashes, or the tower of Chalane, impiously built, and righteously destroyed. Whenever I read his writings on the Spirit, I find the God Whom I possess, and grow bold in my utterance of the truth, from the support of his theology and contemplation. His other treatises, in which he gives explanations for those who are shortsighted, by a threefold inscription on the solid tablets of his heart, lead me on from a mere literal or symbolic interpretation to a still wider view, as I proceed from one depth to another, calling upon deep after deep, and finding light after light, until I attain the highest pinnacle. When I study his panegyrics on our athletes, I despise the body, and enjoy the society of those whom he is praising, and rouse myself to the struggle. His moral and practical discourses purify soul and body, making me a temple fit for God, and an instrument struck by the Spirit, to celebrate by its strains the glory and power of God. In fact, he reduces me to harmony and order, and changes me by a Divine transformation."

St. Gregory does not say anything about the length of the days of Creation Week, but in praising St. Basil's Hexaemeron he indicates his agreement with it -- and we have seen that St. Basil almost certainly thought of those days as 24 hours in length, which would indicate that St. Gregory held the same opinion.

That would bring the tally of early Fathers who believed in 24-hour Creation Week days to four, though other Fathers likely held the same opinion without ever stating so.

Jordanes said...

The next patristic citation on Hugh Owens' list is St. Gregory of Nyssa's Hexaemeron (PG 44:68-69):

"Before I begin, let me testify that there is nothing contradictory in what the saintly Basil wrote about the creation of the world since no further explanation is needed. They should suffice and alone take second place to the divinely inspired Testament. Let anyone who hearkens to our attempts through a leisurely reading be not dismayed if they agree with our words. We do not propose a dogma which gives occasion for calumny; rather, we wish to express only our own insights so that what we offer does not detract from the following instruction. Thus let no one demand from me questions which seem to fall in line with common opinion either from holy Scripture or explained by our teacher. My task is not to fathom those matters before us which appear contradictory; rather, permit me to employ my own resources to understand the text's objective. With God's help we can fathom what the text means which follows a certain defined order regarding creation. 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' and the rest which pertains to the cosmogenesis which the six days encompass."

In this passage, St. Gregory refers to "the six days," but does not expressly state that those days lasted 24 hours. However, he does indicate his agreement with St. Basil, who, as we have seen, did believe those days were 24-hour in length, so presumably St. Gregory held the same opinion.

Attention should be drawn to St. Gregory's reference to contradictions or apparent contradictions in the biblical account of Creation Week. He is aware of such difficulties, but says he is more intent on drawing out the spiritual or salvational objective of the text than on offering ways to explain the difficulties. As an example of those difficulties, St. Gregory says in a passage prior to the abovequoted passage:

"I believe it is good to perceive the intent of the six days (Hexæmeron) of creation where clear knowledge with regard to the sun is lacking, that is, this luminous body is not mentioned along with the rest of the stars after three days. We are unable to distinguish the measure of day by morning and evening unless the sun had set and had risen at dawn."

In other words, he admits that he (and we) may not be able to explain how there could have been "days" and light before the sun had been created, but wants us to focus on more important lessons that Moses' account teaches than the basic knowledge of the order of events in Creation Week.

Jordanes said...

Next comes the citation of St. Ambrose of Milan's Hexaemeron 1:37 FC 42:42:

"In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a 'day,' not the 'first day.' Because a second, then a third, day, and finally the remaining days were to follow, a 'first day' could have been mentioned, following in this way the natural order. But Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent."

This almost certainly means St. Ambrose saw the days of Creation Week as 24-hour days. It's not quite a statement that those days lasted the usual length of time, but it's almost as good as one. Ambrose thus would be numbered with Victorinus, Ephraem, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa as believing the days of Creation Week lasted 24 hours.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is the citation of St. John Chrysostom's Homily 3, col 35, Commentary on Genesis 1:6-8,9-19:

"Acknowledging that God could have created the world 'in a single day, nay in a single moment,' he chose 'a sort of succession and established things by parts' . . . so that, accurately interpreted by that blessed prophet Moses, we do not fall in with those who are guided by human reasonings."

There is nothing in this passage that addresses the question of how long the days of Creation Week lasted. Though St. John presumably thought of them as 24-hour days, as was the common opinion back then, this passage cannot settle that question.

Jordanes said...

Regrettably, I have been unable to find an online version of St. Jerome's "Commentary on the Epistle to Titus, Praise of St. Basil's writings." I will have to look up a "hardcopy" of it the old fashioned way, at a library. However, if St. Jerome was praising St. Basil's writings, the odds are he agreed with St. Basil's opinion that the days of Creation Week lasted 24 hours.

Jordanes said...

The next patristic citation on Hugh Owen's list is St Cyril of Alexandria's "Against Julian the Apostate," 2:27-28 --

27. As for the way in which he made creation happen, we do not have the means to say. I affirm that it is beyond any way of expression known to us: how indeed could what exceeds understanding be explained? In my opinion, the approach imagined by the supreme Being and the way that leads to an understanding of his enterprise will be always as inaccessible to our human condition as we are by nature lower than this Being himself. When Moses said, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth", understand that he condenses and summarizes in some way all the details in a single word, when he describes the genesis of all creation. Then, he attempts to say somehow how this creation was put in order and how all the things created were assigned the role in life which they have.

Moses also states that that God created through the all-powerful Word: in fact his creator-Word of the universe is God himself and proceeds from God by nature. "God said," Moses continues, "Let there be a firmament!" and this firmament instantaneously becomes real by the operation of the Word, and God gives it the name of 'heaven'. "God said: Let the dry land appear!" and the waters gather in a single body. God said moreover: 'Let the sun be!' and it was; and so for the moon, the stars, the day, the terrestrial and aquatic animals, and the birds. But by nature the elements themselves cannot draw from their own resources the possibility of escaping corruption, on the contrary, they need the hand of He that maintains them in good condition: this is the sense of the words of Moses: "the breath of God was moving over the waters." Indeed the breath of God vivifies anything, because He is life also by nature, as He proceeds from the life of the Father; everything needs Him, and there is no other means for anything to obtain existence in order to be what it is.

28. So contemplate, as I have just said, the firmament firmly established by the Word and the firm ground emerging after the gathering of the waters in a single body; contemplate the green earth full of grass and trees, and the vital forces included in them which makes possible for them to conceal their transitory nature with the virtue of eternity, to last and remain; see the luminaries of the firmament, created by God only for the purpose of lighting what is on earth, to mark the moments of time, the days, the years! Moses adds that the earth accepted the order to give rise to the brute animals, the Creator on his side distributing to each its form, size and conditions of existence.

And when everything in the world had finally been created, when nothing for lacking to supply the needs of man, then, and only then, did the Creator begin to think of the way in which He was going to realise man himself. Because the creation of man, unlike the other creative acts, could not be improvised. The supreme being, in the conception of some and actually, is just grandeur and perfection - some even say that it is the loss of any spirit, any language, any admiration: however He decided to form the animal in His own image, as much as could be made. Also, having every reason to ensure that this, which must be in His image and resemblance, namely man, did not appear weak, contemptible or different enough from the other animals, He chose to create him only after serious reflection.

Jordanes said...

As we can see, St. Cyril says nothing at all about how long the days of Creation Week lasted. This is not surprising, given his attitude of humble agnosticism about the manner and details of God's creative actions. For St. Cyril, the Genesis account is an "attempt" by Moses to say how God put creation in order (which is not to say that St. Cyril thought Moses wasn't divinely inspired in making this "attempt.") Whatever St. Cyril may have thought about the length of those days cannot be known, and he himself probably wouldn't have held any opinion of their length in such a way that he wouldn't be ready to change his mind.

Jordanes said...

Next on the list is the citation of Theodoret of Cyrus' Dialogue II, Eranistes:

Orthodoxus: And how many days after the creation of heaven and earth are we told that Adam was formed?

Eranistes: On the sixth day.



This exchange reiterates the biblical account of Creation Week, presumably taking the days as ordinary days of 24 hours, but without addressing the question of their length.

Jordanes said...

Moving on now to the Fathers of the fifth century A.D., a sermon extract of St. Peter Chrysologus is quoted in "The Liturgy of the Hours according to the Roman Rite," Vol. III.

As with St. Jerome above, I was unable to find this volume online, so I don't know which of St. Peter's many sermons is quoted therein. I did find a partial preview of a collection of his sermons, however, and located this passage:

"Seven days bring the world to completion by the action of God." (Sermon 85B, On the Day of Pentecost)

That, of course, does not address the question of how long those days lasted.

In addition, Sermon 103 includes a description of God's work of creation, though without an enumeration or discussion of the days of Creation Week.

We have yet to discover what, if anything, St. Peter said about the length of the days of Creation Week.

Jordanes said...

Next on Hugh Owens' list is Pope St. Leo the Great's sermon "On the Feast of the Nativity," 27:5 --

"For as it is now day time and now night time, so the Creator has constituted divers kinds of luminaries, although even before they were made there had been days without the sun and nights without the moon. But these were fashioned to serve in making man, that he who is an animal endowed with reason might be sure of the distinction of the months, the recurrence of the year, and the variety of the seasons, since through the unequal length of the various periods, and the clear indications given by the changes in its risings, the sun closes the year and the moon renews the months. For on the fourth day, as we read, God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, and let them shine upon the earth, and let them divide between day and night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be in the firmament of heaven that they may shine upon earth.'"

Pope St. Leo mentions that, as Moses relates, there were days and nights even prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. However, he does not specify how long those days were. Did he believe they were 24 hours in length? Perhaps -- but he never delves into that question in this sermon.

Jordanes said...

Next comes the citation of St. Gregory the Great's "Moralia in Iob," XXXII, xii, 16 --

"Whom does He suggest, under the name ‘Behemoth,’ except the ancient enemy? which being interpreted from the Hebrew word, means ‘Animal’ in the Latin tongue. For when his malice is added below, his person is plainly pointed out. But since it is written of God that He made all things together, why does He declare that He made this animal at the same time with man, when it is plain that He made all things at once? Again, we must enquire how God created all things at once, when Moses describes them as created separately with the varying change of six days. But we learn this the more readily, if we enquire minutely into the actual cases themselves of their beginnings. For the substance of things was indeed created at once, but the form was not fashioned at once: and that which existed at the same time in the substance of matter, appeared not at the same time by the figure of its shape. For when heaven and earth are described as made at the same time, it is pointed out that things spiritual and things corporeal, whatever arises from heaven, and whatever is produced from earth, were created all of them together. For the sun, the moon, and the stars, are said to have been created in the heaven on the fourth day: but that which on the fourth day came forth in appearance, existed on the first day in the substance of heaven by the creation. The earth is said to have been created on the first day, and the trees and all the green things of the earth are described as being made on the third. But that which on the third day put itself forth in appearance, was doubtless created on the first day in the substance of the earth, from which it sprung. Hence it is that Moses distinctly related the creation of all things in separate days, and yet added that all were created at the same time, saying, These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord made the heaven, and the earth, and every plant of the field, before it sprung up in the earth, and every herb of the region. [Gen. 2, 4, 5] For he who had related that the heaven, and the earth, the trees and herbs, were created on different days, now declares that they were made on one day; in order clearly to point out that every creature began to be at the same time in substance, although it came not forth at the same time in appearance. Hence also it is written there, God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them. [Gen. 1, 27] For Eve is not as yet described as having been made, and yet man is already said to be male and female. But because woman was certainly about to come forth from the side of Adam, she is already reckoned as being in him in substance, from whom she was hereafter to come forth in form. But we can consider these points in the smallest matters, in order from the smallest to consider greater. For when the herb is created, neither fruit, nor the seed of its fruit, as yet appears in it. But fruit and seed exist therein, even when they appear not; because they doubtless exist together in the substance of the root, which appear not together in the increase of time."

St. Gregory takes the Genesis account at face value, so it would be likely that he would see the days of Creation Week as ordinary days of 24 hours' length. Nevertheless, he does not express an opinion on that question, so we can't say for certain, based on this passage, what he may have thought about that question.

Jordanes said...

Moving on now, we come to the citation of St. Isidore of Seville's "Chronicon" (Brehaut translation) p.118 --

"God created everything in six days. On the first day he fashioned light; on the second, the firmament of heaven; on the third, the land and the sea; on the fourth, the stars; on the fifth, the fish and the birds; on the sixth, the animals and the beasts of burden and finally the first man, Adam, in his image."

This is nothing more than a summary reiteration of the account of Creation Week, unaccompanied by theological or hermeneutical commentary. It does not affirm anything about the nature or length of those days, though, again, given the common understanding and opinions of those days, St. Isidore presumably thought of the days as being of normal length.

Jordanes said...

Last on the list is the citation of St. John the Damascene's "Exact Composition of the Orthodox Faith," 2:7 --

"In the beginning, then, that is to say on the first day, God created light, the ornament and glory of the whole visible creation. For take away light and all things remain in undistinguishable darkness, incapable of displaying their native beauty. And God called the light day, but the darkness He called night (Gen. i. 5). Further, darkness is not any essence, but an accident: for it is simply absence of light. The air, indeed, has not light in its essence (Basil, Hom. 2, in Hexaëmeron). It was, then, this very absence of light from the air that God called darkness: and it is not the essence of air that is darkness, but the absence of light which clearly is rather an accident than an essence. And, indeed, it was not night, but day, that was first named, so that day is first and after that comes night. Night, therefore, follows day. And from the beginning of day till the next day is one complete period of day and night. For the Scripture says, And the evening and the morning were one day."

Although St. John does not explicitly say anything about the length of the days of Creation Week, and that question was not under discussion in this passage, nevertheless his language strongly implies that he saw those days as having been of usual length.

Jordanes said...

Having gone through Hugh Owens' list of Church Fathers, let's take another look at the list and sum up our findings:

On the question of the length of the days of Creation Week:

1. St. Justin Martyr: silent
2. St. Irenaeus of Lyons: silent
3. St. Clement of Alexandria: silent
4. St. Hippolytus of Rome: silent, but perhaps 24 hours (ambiguous)
5. Julius Africanus: silent
6. St. Theophilus of Antioch: silent, or seemingly agnostic
7. Lactantius: silent, but probably 24 hours (ambiguous)
8. St. Archelaus of Cascus: silent, but perhaps non-literal
9. St. Athanasius: silent
10. Marius Victorinus: 24 hours
11. St. Ephraem the Syrian: 24 hours
12. St. Peter of Alexandria: silent
13. St. Methodius of Olympus: probably 24 hours, but perhaps 1,000 years
14. St. Hilary of Poitiers (D): silent
15. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (D): silent
16. St. Epiphanius of Salamis: probably 24 hours
17. St. Basil of Caesarea (D): 24 hours
18. St. Gregory of Nazianzus 329-389 (D): very probably 24 hours
19. St. Gregory of Nyssa: very probably 24 hours
20. St. Ambrose of Milan (D): 24 hours
21. St. John Chrysostom (D): silent
22. St. Jerome (D): ??? (could not verify, but presumably 24 hours)
23. St. Cyril of Alexandria (D): agnostic, perhaps non-literal
24. St. Theodoret of Cyrus: siilent
25. St. Peter Chrysologus (D): ??? (could not verify)
26. Pope St. Leo the Great (D): silent
27. St. Gregory the Great (D): silent
28. St. Isidore of Seville (D): silent
29. St. John Damascene (D): silent, but perhaps 24 hours (ambiguous)

Thus, of those 29 Fathers, four certainly believed the days of Creation Week were of ordinary length, and another eight probably or very probably held the same belief. The remaining 17 Fathers did not address the question at all, while one or two of them did not believe they were literal 24-hour days -- contrary to what Hugh Owens had claimed. However, it's probable that many of those 17 Fathers did think those days were of ordinary length, especially given what we know of the prevailing hermeneutical approaches and the state of scientific knowledge in those days.

Given the dearth and ambiguous nature of the patristic testimony on this question, it appears to be impossible to maintain that there was a unanimous patristic consensus indicating the preservation of a binding Apostolic Tradition about the length of the days of Creation Week. This conclusion is in keeping with our knowledge that St. Augustine did not believe the days to have been 24 hours in length, and with the teaching of St. Pius X's Pontifical Biblical Commission that Catholics are free to believe in either 24-hour Creation days or non-literal Creation days of greater and/or indeterminate length.

Jordanes551 said...

Just thought I'd mention something truly hilarious. Someone recently attempted to post a rude comment here attacking me for "hijacking a post" and going off-topic . . . and, of course, bloviating.

Bloviating? Guilty as charged. But since this is, well, you know, my very own post, I am entirely within my rights to "hijack" it and go off on a tangent. It's not my fault that the commenters wished to discuss something tangential to the topic of my blog post rather than the actual topic of my blog post. If I choose to "hijack" my own post, those who are unfortunate enough to read my comments will just have to live with it. That's just one of the divine rights that I have by virtue of being the author of this blog post.