Does Scripture forces us to accept a literal 6 day creation?

I am aware that The Church allows us to accept Evolution or Creationism and that Catholics are not obliged to see the creation as taking place in 6 literal days. I know we are given some flexibility when it comes to interpreting the creation story of Genesis in order to accommodate Evolution.

However, I am wondering how Catholics who accept Evolution handle the following verses:

Exodus 20:11
"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it."

Exodus 31:17
"Between me and the children of Israel, and a perpetual sign. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the seventh he ceased from work."

This seems to lock things into a literal six day creation model, no? It points back to the six days of Genesis and appears to exclude any non-literal interpretation. The first is said by God while he is giving the ten commandments and Exodus narrates historical events, so I don’t think it can be seen as allegory.

What do fellow Catholics who accept Evolution think about these verses?

Hi Asimis,

Catholic Answers has a great article on this. Please click

What do you think?


Thanks for the link, I had read that page before. Here are also some of the questions posed to the Biblical Commission in 1909 and their replies:

Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis June 30, 1909 (AAS 1 [1909] 567ff; EB 332ff; Dz 2121ff)

VII: As it was not the mind of the sacred author in the composition of the first chapter of Genesis to give scientific teaching about the internal Constitution of visible things and the entire order of creation, but rather to communicate to his people a popular notion in accord with the current speech of the time and suited to the understanding and capacity of men, must the exactness of scientific language be always meticulously sought for in the interpretation of these matters?
Answer: In the negative.

 **VIII :** In the designation and distinction of the six days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis may the word *Yom* (day) be taken either in the literal sense for the natural day or in an applied sense for a certain space of time, and may this question be the subject of free discussion among exegetes? 
**Answer: **In the affirmative.

Parting from question VIII above we could say that since the word “Yom” as used in Genesis 1 may refer to “a certain space of time”, and it is to this event that the verses from Exodus in the OP refer, then the use of the word “Yom” in these verses could be understood in the same way as the word “Yom” in Genesis 1. Namely, as a certain space of time and not a literal 24 hour period, that is, a day.

Agreed - indeed, this reference to days include some days which preceded God’s fixing of the sun and thus the concept of a 24 hour day. I personally believe that the 6 days of creation are “literal” but each “day” is a reference to an age or period of time. But, if I find out in heaven that God meant 6 literal 24 hour days - that would be just fine to me as well. My theology and beliefs do not turn on the answer to this question.



  1. How long is one of God’s days, given that He has eternity to play with?

  2. An Earth day is 24 hours, but this span of time did not exist as ‘a day’ until the Earth itself was created.

Biblical literalism can lead you to bad conclusions. Sometimes it’s straightforward, sometimes it requires interpretation, especially when you’re dealing with a translation of a translation (of a translation) of what the Apostles remembered of what Jesus said and did, or what the Jews of the Old Testament saw fit to write down.

And then there’s the use of symbolic language, e.g. the Parables!


I don’t have a problem with 6 literal days at all. Because Peter stated “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day”. Time, in the bible, is a touchy subject anyway,but, if you take Peters statement for a second - if a day with the Lord is a thousand years of earth-time, for example, and say that those six days are earth days, then the time God took to create the world is very minute.

Either way, evolution fits in very well when you take into account the language of Genesis. Darkness upon the face of the deep would be space, prior to anything being in it - the earth being formless and void is just that - no earth and nothing on it. “Let there be light” being the ‘Big-Bang’.

I like this idea, because the statement of ‘‘Let there be light’’ doesn’t then conflict with the creation of the sun.

Those six days would be preparation, everything coming together perfectly in the mind of God prior to “Let there be Light!”


That’s just how I look at it

my :twocents:

Hi Asimis,

We must be careful about quoting pronouncements of the old Pontifical Biblical Commission that were made at a time when certain theories did not have much foundation. Some of these theories have since then received a much stronger foundation. In a speech commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger developped the following points :

  1. A 1912 decision of the Consistorial Congregation condemned the so-called two-source theory on the Synoptic question, nowadays approved by practically everyone. This and other decisions left Catholic exegetes with the impression that their hands were tied when they tried to apply historical methods to the Scriptures, whereas their Protestant colleagues had a free hand.

  2. Pius XII’s encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu, introduced a new way of understanding the relationship between the Magisterium and scholarly demands of the historical reading of the Bible. But it was Dei Verbum, of the Second Vatican Council that made the greatest contribution:

a) it broadened the horizon in which Bible interpretation could take place by placing the Bible within the wider context of Tradition, of which it is only a part

b) it emphasized the absolute necessity of the historical method as an essential part of the exegetical task.

  1. Paul VI, in 1971 reformed the Pontifical Biblical Commission, so that it is no longer an organ of the Magisterium but a forum for the Magisterium and biblical scholars working together.

Cardinal Ratzinger ends his speech with a discussion of the limits of the historical method in interpreting the Bible. He states that, “It’s simply impossible to exclude all philosophy, or hermeneutic pre-comprehension.” (This means that, in using historical criteria to interpret the Bible we must take into account, even before we apply the method, the tenets of our faith.) The Cardinal then goes on to point out that the attitude of the Church on the relationship betwen faith and history has changed over the last 100 years and is still liable to change as progress is made within the frameworks already established.

Bible interpretation is a work in progress.


PS Please note that the words in “quote” are a summary of what the cardinal actually said. Here’s the source:

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