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Featured Some Early Christians Didn't Interpret Genesis Literally.

Discussion in 'Creation & Theistic Evolution' started by onetruechurch4, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. onetruechurch4

    onetruechurch4 Christianity is the only true philosophy.

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    The early Church heavily debated over how literal Genesis should be taken, but there were some well respected Church fathers who did not take Genesis 100% literal. I think taking Genesis allegorically and accepting theistic evolution is a legitimate theological position, and I'm sure if many of the Church fathers were aware of evolution they'd accept it.

    "For who that has understanding will suppose that the first and second and third day existed without a sun and moon and stars and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? . . . I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance and not literally" - Origen (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:1:16 [A.D. 225]).

    "The first seven days in the divine arrangement contain seven thousand years" - St. Cyprian (Treatises 11:11 [A.D. 250]).

    "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. . . . The nights in this reckoning are considered to be component parts of the days that are counted. Therefore, just as there is a single revolution of time, so there is but one day. There are many who call even a week one day, because it returns to itself, just as one day does, and one might say seven times revolves back on itself" - St. Ambrose of Milan (Hexaemeron [A.D. 393]).

    "It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation" - St. Augustine of Hippo (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).

    "With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation" - St. Augustine of Hippo (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).
     
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  2. ByTheSpirit

    ByTheSpirit Pray always!!

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    Ok?
     
  3. HereIStand

    HereIStand Regular Member Supporter

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    Which is why we should stay with Scripture.
     
  4. Aleksandros

    Aleksandros Active Member

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    The Early Church fathers, good men though they often were, often had opinions on things that are best left untouched. It was more or less a time where you could get away with such things - for instance, Origen believed that in the end, souls would all be swallowed up into God and lose their individuality, or something of this sort. :)
     
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  5. Christie insb

    Christie insb Active Member

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    And Origen is considered a heretic, so I don't think he "got away with such things."
    But as far as the original question, I do not think when Jesus ascended into heaven he said, "Go ye into all the world and tell everyone that evolution is not true." Most of us do not believe the earth is flat despite the four corners of the earth being mentioned in Psalms. I believe we should spend less time trying to wrap our heads around the Bible as science textbook and more time loving each other and sharing the Gospel with God's view of the lost.
     
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  6. Aleksandros

    Aleksandros Active Member

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    Origen was only declared a heretic for it much later; during his own time it was barely mentioned.

    I must correct you respectfully on this one: the Earth is not flat according to the Bible. On the contrary, it is referred to as being round. The four corners mentioned are not implying a flat earth, either. It is best not to propagate these misunderstandings :)
     
  7. JCFantasy23

    JCFantasy23 In a Kingdom by the Sea Staff Member Administrator Supporter CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team

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    Interesting - I'm curious on different views on this, so I enjoyed the post.
     
  8. Halbhh

    Halbhh Hubble telescope saw in empty sky....galaxies! Supporter

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    Augustine's last quote is very convincing. How would the Bible be reduced in such a key part as the chapter on creation to mere trivial concrete history notes and merely trivial time duration as if the text is only to inform us about some small details, like a time duration of 156 hours, as the purpose? Just factual, not even seeming to fit the tone of the elegant and beautiful wording even?

    Just a factual set of some concrete information about creation, not about something more deep and profound? Hardly!

    It's about God the Creator of all that is, and the wonder of His creation. Not about quantity of time duration or mere sequence of species!
     
  9. onetruechurch4

    onetruechurch4 Christianity is the only true philosophy.

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    I don't believe it's completely accurate to say Origen himself was a heretic, he is still a very respected Church father even today. But no doubt that "Origenism" is heretical and has been formally condemned by the Church since the 6th century. The Church fathers were not perfect, but they are of great value to the faith. Tertullian was technically more of a heretic than Origen since Tertullian had joined the Montanist, yet Tertullian was the first to introduce a lot of the theological language used to describe the orthodox Christian Trinity, and he is considered the father of western Christian theology.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  10. onetruechurch4

    onetruechurch4 Christianity is the only true philosophy.

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    Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching and correcting, indeed. But, scripture doesn't give us all the details. Scripture doesn't tell us how literally we're suppose to take Genesis, scripture doesn't give us all the theological terminology for the Trinity, scripture doesn't specify a lot of things about the Church. The early Church fathers are the best window we have for how the earliest Christians interpreted scripture, some of them, like Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus, had strong connections to the apostles.

    It was the Church fathers who preserved scripture and decided by the guidance of the Holy Spirit what was and what wasn't scripture, the Bible didn't just fall out of the sky. We need to think of the Church fathers and their writings as the earliest commentary's on scripture and how to interpret it. They are of much value and they helped shaped modern Christian theology.
     
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  11. HereIStand

    HereIStand Regular Member Supporter

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    There's value in reading the Church fathers. I've read Augustine's The Trinity, and have listened to City of God. Both are quite beneficial and in some ways foundational. Ultimately though, Scripture itself has to outweigh any writings of the fathers on Scripture.
     
  12. miamited

    miamited Ted Supporter

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    Hi onetruechurch,

    In reading over your explanations that some of your chosen ECF's have used to separate themselves from the truth, it is also apparent that many of these same explanations would deny us the ability to tell non-christians that Jesus was born of a virgin. After all, everyone knows that the natural consequences of things precludes that a virgin could bear a child. I'm utterly amazed when 'christians' try to explain that we shouldn't be dogmatic in our beliefs when it might shatter some non-christian's understanding of the natural properties of things. Who among us, who understands the natural properties of life on this earth, wouldn't just totally mock anyone trying to tell us that the dead can come back to life?

    Just imagine how they're going to react when you tell them that a shadow cast by the sun went backwards some 8-10 feet.

    God bless you,
    In Christ, ted
     
  13. JackRT

    JackRT "Karma" can bite you in the butt

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    Some verses say round and some say square but all say flat.
     
  14. miamited

    miamited Ted Supporter

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    Hi again onetruechurch,

    You posted from Origen:
    Unfortunately, Origen is basing his explanation on faulty reasoning. He reasons that a day is defined by some act of the sun, moon and stars. It isn't. A day is nothing more than a full rotation of the earth. The sun, the moon and the myriad of stars could go utterly dark in a mere instant, and so long as the earth remained spinning on its axis--days would pass. There wouldn't be any sun rise or moon rise. You wouldn't be able to look up and see the various constellations, but days would still pass on the earth.

    God bless you,
    In Christ, ted
     
  15. Aleksandros

    Aleksandros Active Member

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    May I see the Scriptures?
     
  16. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie

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    While some Church Fathers may have taken the Creation Week as being a far longer period of time than seven twenty-four-hour days, it's a bit of a stretch, imho, to connect that with an automatic embrace of what we now think of as "theistic evolution", or to put it another way, "Darwin plus God".

    Aren't there other Church Fathers who did interpret the Creation Week as literal?
     
  17. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie

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    And, again, if we choose to paint Genesis as "symbolic" or "poetic", what's to stop anyone from painting the Virgin Birth or Resurrection of Christ similarly? Both series of texts seem to tell a straight-forward and linear narrative. If one can be " poetic", why not the other?
     
  18. JackRT

    JackRT "Karma" can bite you in the butt

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    Certainly!

    Modern or ancient, every culture operates within a certain cosmology or understanding of the universe. This cosmology sets the context of how a people understand their world and their place in it. With very few exceptions our modern day cosmology is shaped by the scientific discoveries of the past 500 years. Some of these discoveries have greatly upset religious understandings and it sometimes takes centuries to reconcile the differences. However, since we live in a culture that has been greatly shaped by the bible and Christian beliefs, it is worthwhile to ask about biblical cosmology.

    The biblical understanding of the universe is much the same as that of the surrounding cultures in the ancient Middle East at the time when it was written. Unfortunately, nowhere does the bible attempt to present a comprehensive cosmology, so we are forced to rely upon individual passages and to attempt to understand them in the light of their culture and their history. To begin with, biblical cosmology can be characterized as a three-tiered universe. This strange phrase needs some explanation to make the concept clearer.

    First, the surface of the earth is circular and flat except for geographical features like hills and valleys. This of course was the belief of the Sumerians. To these people it was theoretically possible to go high enough to see the entire earth, or to envision a tree tall enough that it could be seen from everywhere on the earth's surface, or even to build a tower to reach the sky. The sky was thought of as a solid bowl, called the firmament, that was upended over the circular earth to enclose a volume in the shape of a hemisphere. I should add that there are some bible verses that speak of the four corners of the earth. This was the view of the Babylonians. This would make the firmament look more like a tent than a bowl. The lights of the sky (sun, moon, planets and stars) were inside the firmament and were very much smaller than we presently understand. In fact they were very much smaller than the earth itself. The mechanism by which these celestial objects moved about is not really explained. The noncanonical Book of Enoch (mentioned in the bible as authoritive and part of the canon of Ethiopian Christians) speaks of gates in the east and west for the sun and the moon to enter and leave. Enoch also suggests that their movements are caused by winds.

    What I have just described is the middle tier of the three. Above the firmament are waters. This region is described as heaven, the abode of God and the angels. There were also gates in the firmament to permit water to enter as rain. Below the earth are also waters. This region is described as sheol or hell. There were also gates in the earth to permit water to spring up from below. This three level universe is variously described as either hung on nothing or supported by pillars. Storehouses are also envisioned in heaven for the snow and hail.

    How should a of Christian today react to this biblical cosmology? The vast majority of what might be described as 'mainline' Christians are actually quite comfortable with this seeming dichotomy. They recognize that the bible is the product of a relatively unsophisticated people with an entirely pre-scientific understanding of nature, who used poetic or metaphorical language to convey their spiritual understandings. On the other hand there is the minority point of view of those Christians who regard the bible to be inerrant and to be understood literally. This group has been forced into extreme apologetic efforts in order to reconcile the bible with modern scientific understandings.

    Speaking personally, I find these apologetic attempts to be rather inventive and very strained. I believe that if the scripture writers and early target audience were to read these apologetics, they would find them extremely puzzling and entirely foreign. This is not to say that they were not intelligent people or not keen observers of nature but rather that that they lacked the intellectual basis to form scientific hypotheses and even the instrumentation to gather accurate data --- all that came about some 2,000 years later.

    Isaiah 11:12And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH. (KJV)

    Revelation 7:1And after these things I saw four angels standing on FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. (KJV)

    Job 38:13 That it might take hold of the ENDS OF THE EARTH, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? (KJV)

    Jeremiah 16:19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ENDS OF THE EARTH, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. (KJV)

    Daniel 4:11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the ENDS OF ALL THE EARTH: (KJV)

    Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (KJV)

    Psalm 104:5 "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved."(NIV)

    Psalm 93:1"The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved." (NIV)

    Psalm 96:10 "Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." (NIV)

    Ecclesiastes 1:5 "The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises." (NIV)

    Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." (NIV)

    Job 9:6 He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. (NIV)

    Job 26:11 The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke. (NIV)

    Job 38:22 "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail," (NIV)

    Amos 9:6 The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His VAULTED DOME over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, The LORD is His name. (NASB)

    The biblical flat earth cosmology persisted into New Testament times. However by the mid second century Christianity had largely lost its Jewish roots and understandings and had become a gentile Greek speaking movement. Of course the Greeks knew that the earth was a sphere thanks to Eratosthenes who actually was able to calculate the circumference around 240 BC. This knowledge gradually percolated into Jewish and Christian thought especially after Ptolemy introduced his cosmology in the mid second century. The earth became the center of the universe with the moon and then the sun and then the planets, with complicated epicycles, and then the “fixed” stars all in orbit around it. This was the cosmology accepted by Christianity until the revolution of Copernicus, Kepler. Galileo and Newton. This was resisted by Christianity largely on the basis that the earth was not the center of God’s creation. In a relatively short time even this scientific insight was not only accepted but accepted to the extent that the biblical cosmology of a flat earth was rejected. The flat earth was not only rejected but ridiculous arguments were even invented to suggest that the bible was not even suggesting a flat earth at all. Such, all too often, is the way some Christians react to new understandings and insights.

    Even having said all this, the belief in a flat earth persisted for a very long time, even in educated circles, as is evidenced in this comment by Ferdinand Magellan, the first person to circumnavigate the globe: “The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.” It took time but the modern cosmology took root in society at large, so much so that some Christians even return to the bible and attempt to reinterpret it in such a way as to “prove” that it was speaking of a spherical earth orbiting the sun all along.
     
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  19. Speedwell

    Speedwell Well-Known Member

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    I think the point of the OP is that figurative interpretations of Genesis are almost as old as the book itself--dating back to the Apostolic Fathers andthe the Jews before them, in fact--and not something "invented" just to accomodate Darwin.

    Of course there were. The difference is the degree to which Christians who are literalists now often react in a negative and sometimes hostile way towards Christians who are not .
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  20. Speedwell

    Speedwell Well-Known Member

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    The key word there is "seems."
     
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