We should always seek to understand the true authorial intent of Genesis and every book of Sacred Scripture, in accord with the literary genre it was written in. Figurative writing should be understood in its figurative sense. We can say, for example, that the “sun is setting” and still also believe scientific theory that the earth orbits the sun. Likewise, a scientist can say the “moon shines” and mean precisely that it shines due to its reflective nature.
Keep in mind, some apparent contradictions within SCIENCE are not (yet) explainable. But that doesn’t mean we dismiss science as bunk. Nor should we dismiss any other field of study simply because all apparent contradictions in that field are not yet resolved.
Consequently, as for the overall notion that there are apparent contradictions in Scripture, I give the following explanation to the teenagers and adults I teach at my parish: God gives us his revelation in two ways: 1) Natural revelation – God speaks through the things he has created, and 2) Supernatural revelation – God speaks directly, supernaturally. Whenever & however God speaks, he always speaks the truth, and nothing but the truth. Whenever we think we have come across an apparent contradiction in what God has spoken, the error is in our failure to properly understand the Author’s intent.[FONT="]
[/FONT] With regard to Divine revelation of the “natural” sort, scientists trust that truth can be discovered by discerning the nature of things. For instance, when observing lightning on particular occasions (particular truth), we can reason or infer things about the truth of lightning in general (general truth). Anyone who has spent any significant time studying science has come across what seem to be “apparent contradictions.” For example, light seems to behave as a particle. However, it also seems to behave like a wave. This wave-particle duality can be an “apparent contradiction” to some, but we accept it as true, although complex and not quite fully understood…a “mystery.” A mystery that gifted men and women may come to understand more deeply after further contemplation, while others may never see past the apparent contradiction. Thus, when scientists encounter apparent contradictions in the study of nature (natural science), we do not presume that nature is fraudulent, filled with error. Instead, we accept a priori that God’s revelation is inerrant. When faced with apparent contradictions in nature, we conclude that we haven’t perfectly understood the truthful material very well*, and therefore we have more work ahead of us.* Scientists accept that there are still things they do not understand. In other words, nature contains some “mysteries” which we are still trying to contemplate. While we are aware that there are “apparent contradictions” in God’s natural revelation to us, we also know that they cannot be true contradictions in nature, but instead result from our own lack of ability, our own failure to understand that revelation properly.
Same thing goes for the Divine revelation of the “supernatural” sort. It is complex. It is filled with mystery. We can sometimes come across “apparent contradictions” which we find perplexing, but we trust that such are the result of a lack of understanding on our part, not characterized by “fraud” on the part of the Author.
In other words, God’s natural revelation and God’s supernatural revelation are not erroneous, but true. There can be no true contradictions within or between them. It would be foolish to accuse the Author of Divine Revelation of error. We instead admit humbly that something in our own understanding must be lacking, and we are called to further contemplation. In this way, it is in God we trust above our own limited talents.
Catholic hermeneutics continue to insist that “if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”(St. Augustine, Ep. lxxxii., i. et crebrius alibi., as cited by Pius XI, *Providentissimus Deus, *21).