Augustine: Creation and Genesis

Religion / Science

James asked me for the citation for the paraphrased quote I wrote about here.

I finally stumbled across it. It’s from, not surprisingly, Augustine’s “The LIteral Interpretation of Genesis”

“‘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’ (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).”

The second is like unto it:

“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” (ibid., 2:9).

I found the quote here among a number of other places.

It’s worth perhaps following the link. There’s a wealth of patristic writing quoted on the page with regard to whether or not the Creation account in Genesis is to be understood literally. Read in total it shows the wide divergence in the early Church.

(This is what happens when I’m forced to stay home with the flu.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. While I am grateful for the cite, the quotation and the link, I am sorry to hear you are / were home sick. Tamiflu if you have access to it, good rye whiskey if you don’t are my only suggestions. Well that and hide the tamiflu…..

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