strug << Does the “evening and morning” mentioned in Genesis favor the literal interpretation of days in Genesis? Why or why not? >>
We do not have to go into the Hebrew of Genesis 1. We only need to quote Pope John Paul II and the Catechism on the issue. At least that is enough for me.
John Paul II:
“Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven.” (Pope John Paul II, 10/3/1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “Cosmology and Fundamental Physics”)
The important parts to notice here, according to John Paul II: (1) the Bible is not a scientific treatise; (2) the main point of Genesis 1 is that God is our Creator; (3) the Scripture uses the cosmology in use at the time of the writer (not a modern cosmology); (4) the Bible wishes to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how the heavens were made; (5) any other teaching about the origin and nature of the universe is alien to the intentions of the original biblical authors.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity, and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine “work,” concluded by the “rest” of the seventh day. On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation, permitting us to “recognize the inner nature, the value, and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God.” [Vatican II LG 36] (see also paragraphs 339, 342, 345 which refer to the “six days”)
Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun. [footnote refers to St. Augustine, De Genesi adv Man 1, 2, 4: PL 34, 175]
The section on “The Divine Work of Creation,” from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott (originally written in the 1950s), pages 92-122 covers the “biblical hexahemeron” (the “six days” of creation), the creation of man, Adam/Eve, original sin and the Fall, etc. Ott gives the following comments on the “science” of Genesis and the Fathers, and the compatibility of biological evolution and Catholic faith:
“…as the hagiographers in profane things make use of a popular, that is, a non-scientific form of exposition suitable to the mental perception of their times, a more liberal interpretation, is possible here. The Church gives no positive decisions in regard to purely scientific questions, but limits itself to rejecting errors which endanger faith. Further, in these scientific matters there is no virtue in a consensus of the Fathers since they are not here acting as witnesses of the Faith, but merely as private scientists…Since the findings of reason and the supernatural knowledge of Faith go back to the same source, namely to God, there can never be a real contradiction between the certain discoveries of the profane sciences and the Word of God properly understood.” (Ott, page 92)
“As the Sacred Writer had not the intention of representing with scientific accuracy the intrinsic constitution of things, and the sequence of the works of creation but of communicating knowledge in a popular way suitable to the idiom and to the pre-scientific development of his time, the account is not to be regarded or measured as if it were couched in language which is strictly scientific…The Biblical account of the duration and order of Creation is merely a literary clothing of the religious truth that the whole world was called into existence by the creative word of God. The Sacred Writer utilized for this purpose the pre-scientific picture of the world existing at the time. The numeral six of the days of Creation is to be understood as an anthropomorphism. God’s work of creation represented in schematic form (opus distinctionis – opus ornatus) by the picture of a human working week, the termination of the work by the picture of the Sabbath rest. The purpose of this literary device is to manifest Divine approval of the working week and the Sabbath rest.” (Ott, page 93, cf. Exod 20:8)
If you want to go into the Hebrew of Genesis, and find all the places and different meanings of “day” you might want to get the books by Hugh Ross, an evangelical physicist who fully accepts the Protestant principle of “sola scriptura.” It is not really a “Catholic question” anymore as far as I’m concerned.
Science has fully established the 4.5 billion year old earth.
Cardinal Schonborn on the “young-earth creationist” position:
"Now there is another misunderstanding that is constantly found in the ongoing discussion, and I have to deal with it right here at the beginning. I refer to what is called ‘creationism.’ Nowadays the belief in a creator is automatically run together with ‘creationism.’ But in fact to believe in a creator is not the same as trying to understand the six days of creation literally, as six chronological days, and as trying to prove scientifically, with whatever means available, that the earth is 6000 years old. These attempts of certain Christians at taking the Bible absolutely literally, as if it made chronological and scientific statements – I have met defenders of this position who honestly strive to find scientific arguments for it – is called ‘fundamentalism.’ Or more exactly, within American Protestantism this view of the Christian faith originally called itself fundamentalism. Starting from the belief that the Bible is inspired by God, so that every word in it is immediately inspired by Him, the six days of creation are taken in a strict literal way. It is understandable that in the United States many people, using not only kinds of polemics but lawsuits as well, vehemently resist the teaching of creationism in the schools…
“The Catholic position on this is clear. St. Thomas says that ‘one should not try to defend the Christian faith with arguments that are so patently opposed to reason that the faith is made to look ridiculous.’ It is simply nonsense to say that the world is only 6000 years old. To try to prove this scientifically is what St. Thomas calls provoking the irrisio infidelium, the scorn of the unbelievers. It is not right to use such false arguments and to expose the faith to the scorn of unbelievers. This should suffice on the subject of ‘creationism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ for the entire remainder of this catechesis; what we want to say about it should be so clear that we do not have to return to the subject.” (Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Catechetical Lecture for 11/13/2005)