Here are some paragraphs from Gerhard F. Hasel, "The 'Days'of Creation in
Genesis 1: Literal 'Days' or Figurative 'Periods/Epochs' of Time?" in
"Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary" edited by J. T. Baldwin, 2002, Review
and Herald Publish Association.
Some Medieval Understandings of Creation 'Days'
The Alexandrian curhc father Origen, an accomplished practitioner and
defender of the allegorical method of interpretation, has received credt for
being the first to understand the creation "days" in an allegorical and
Augustine, the most famous of the Latin fathers, followed Origen in arguing
that we should approach the creation "days" allegorically rather than
literally. Scholars understand Augustine to teach that God created the
world in a single flash of a moment.
At this point it seems appropriate to reflect on some methodological
matters. Neither Augustine nor Origen had any evolutionary concept in mind.
They took the creation 'days' as nonliteral, standing for something else,
because it was philosophically mandatory to assign to God creation activity
unrelated to human time. Sine the 'days' of creation are God's work, they
argued, such 'days' have to be representative of philosophical notions
associated with God taken from their philosophical perspectives.
Greek philosophy regards God as timeless. Since the creation 'days' are
part of divine activity, the two church fathers assumed that they also
should be understood in a timeless sense. Philosophy, not scientific
speculation, influenced the thinking of Origen and Augustine, leading them
to reinterpret the creation 'days.'
What this approach has in common with modern attempts, which also take the
creation 'days' to mean something other than what the face value of the
terminology seems to suggest, is that both derive from influences outside
the biblical text itself. Medieval theologican, who assumed the creation
'days' to be nonliteral, based in on nonbiblical, pagan philosophical mods
Today still another influence from outside the biblical text leads
interpreters to change what seems to be the plain meanding of 'days.' At
present a naturlistically based scientific hypothesis, the modern theory of
evolution, prompts such changes.
The Alexandrian allegorical method of interpretation shaped the thinking of
medieval CAtholic theologican. They adapted the fourfold sense of Scripture
for medieval times, one that still has support in current official Roman
CAtholicism. The three nonliteral meanings of the fourfold sense of
Scripture (i.e., allegory, anagogy, and tropology) dominated Christendom for
more than a millennium, providing the hermeneutical means for the
reinterpretation of the literal sense of the creation 'days.'
Reformation Understanding of Creation 'Days'
The sixteenth-century Reformers agreed that the fourfold sense of Scripture
compromised the literal sense of the Bible, making its authority for faith
and life null and void. They insisted that the single, true sense of
Scripture is the literal sense, the plain meaning of the text.
One of the major achievements of the Protestant Reformation was the return
to Scripture itself. It meant that Scripture has no need of an external key
for interpretation--whether that key be the pope, the church councils,
philosophy, or any other human authority. Scripture's prespicuity became
the norm of the day. Protestantism considered a reading from within its own
context as paramount. We must not superimpose external meaning on it, as
had been the practice during medieval Catholicism. Rather we should
approach the Bible in its literal and grammatical sense.
Martin Luther, accordingly, argued for the literal interpretation of the
creation account: "We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not
allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures
, was created within six days, as the words read." The other Reformers
understood the creation 'days'
in the same way. Such literal and grammatical interpretation, sometimes
call the historical-grammatical method, remaind the norm for biblical
interpretation more or less into the nineteenth century.
Changes Under the Influence of Modernism
As the concept of long time periods made its way into the understanding of
earth's origins in the wake of the publications of James Hutton and Charles
Lyell, some Christian concordist interpreters started to interpret the
Genesis 'days' of creation in a nonliteral manner. The Bible itself did not
demand it, but rather the new worldview of uniformitarianism and its concept
of origins that required long periods of time.
The understanding of the creation 'days' as 'days of restoration,' 'days of
revelation,' aside from taking a 'day' for an 'age' ('day-age' theory) or an
epoch/era, goes back to this period and the changes in time frames required
by the new geology. A nonliteral reinterpretation of 'days' was typical of
concordists who had accepted long ages for the origin of earth. In view of
such developments, we cannot avoid concluding that the need to provide for
geological ages became the catalyst for the reinterpretation of the 'days'
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