Saturday, June 23, 2012

Genesis: Literal, Figurative, or a Little Bit of Both?


Pomeranian Catholic said...

I'm not sure I want to wade into this topsy-turvy subject. Genesis is one of those things where for every two Catholics, you get three opinions. My own views change depending on my mood, what day of the week it is, and what sort of commentaries I've been reading lately. On average, I tend to appreciate Genesis on a symbolic level without caring much about historicity until we get to Abraham.

Jonny said...

I have always seen in the CCC comment an indication that the "serpent" and the "fruit" story is metaphorical, because the fall happens in the heart of man, even before sin takes a physical expression.

But to see Genesis as having a literal aspect also makes sense. If mankind did indeed begin as one man and one woman, it makes sense that they would live a long time to be fruitful and fill the earth.

I am really reluctant to assert that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are figurative. To me, that seems to cast a shadow of doubt over all of Scripture. I have read theories that these stories are purely fictional, solely based on ancient man's misunderstanding of science, and are all but silly stories in the eyes of today's readers.

I tend to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. After all, I was not around 7,000 years ago to see if God created the earth as Scripture says he did, or if he lovingly watched amoebas slowly slither out of the slime pits over billions of years. Either way it goes, I cannot limit God as being unable to create life as is stated in Scripture, or unable to reveal that information to mankind to be written down and collected into what we now know as the "Holy Bible."

That being said, I don't feel that the information regarding creation in Genesis is necessarily incompatible with science in general, including the Big Bang Theory. On the other hand, I don't believe that scientific tests and observations including carbon dating are absolutely infallible information I can base my faith on.

rolf said...

IMHO, I agree with the Catholic Answers video. The first 11 chapters are figurative but are religious truth (such as God created the heavens and the earth), the remainder of Genesis I feel is a mixture of historical people and figurative and historical events all woven together to help an exiled people understand that they are God's people despite the situation that they find themselves in. That they can strengthen their faith in God to overcome their failures, and through this renewed faith, they will return to Israel and God will bring them back everything they lost do to their idolatry and lack of faith in God.

Chrysostom said...

It is both literal and figurative, in accordance with the four senses of Scripture. Almost all Scripture has more than one layer of meaning - and I can think of nowhere in the Bible, save perhaps the Psalms, where this is more evident than in the first four (or, to include the Deluge, eleven) chapters of Genesis.

Note that I am a creationist* - but that in no way keeps me from seeing, and seeking, a spiritual, analogical, and moral sense of the passages - sometimes several layers thereof - in addition to the plain, "historical-grammatical" narrative history reading.

*Which type - whether strict/young earth, old earth, progressive, day-age (or, even, on more of my extreme days, nearly support for intelligent design) depends on where my mind currently is, what I'm reading, the arguments most fresh in my mind, whether my faith in human reason vis a vis the empirical sciences is currently high or low, et cetera so on and so forth et cetera. Although, unlike some of our evangelical Protestant comrades, I don't find myself obsessed with the age of the earth (although I do find "origins questions" interesting at times) and nearly make it an article of the faith (for which I believe the bare minimum is, "God created everything visible and invisible ex nihilo, we had two first parents, Adam and Eve, created in original justice - as God saw creation and named it "very good" - and they Fell from Grace through disobedience, which spiritual flaw we inherit as original sin"). I've run - that is, personally held - sometimes at the same time, in an amazing display of cognitive dissonance - the entire gamut of opinion from young-earth to theistic evolutionism and back again, many multiples of times, and will likely run it many times more.