Genesis puzzle

There are two things that are on my mind tonight which I will put in this thread. Both have to do with Genesis. The book states that God punished the serpent for deceiving Eve. It’s description is clear that it is not just Satan who is punished, but the cunning serpent, who was possessed. In fact, Satan is not directly mentioned. Does not this mean that the serpent must have had a type of reason and will?

Also, I was wondering about this from Vatican I, “This sole true God **immediately **from the beginning of time fashioned each creature out of nothing, spiritual and corporeal” (DZ 1783). Does this condemn the belief that God created literally in 7 days?

On the first question, I think the serpent was the devil, not just a possessed serpent.

No. There’s no indication that the serpent is ‘possessed’; rather, he is a type of the devil. God is punishing the devil, not an animal.

Also, I was wondering about this from Vatican I, “This sole true God **immediately **from the beginning of time fashioned each creature out of nothing, spiritual and corporeal” (DZ 1783). Does this condemn the belief that God created literally in 7 days?

No. We tend to use the word ‘immediately’ to mean “right away”, but it’s primary meaning is “without mediation” – that is, “directly”. Therefore, Vatican I is asserting that God – by Himself and without the aid of anything or anyone else – created everything from nothing. It has nothing to do with the amount of ‘time’ it took to create.

This is an interesting topic, I read something awhile back about this that suggested the serpent in the garden was actually some kind of bipedal dinosaur-like creature (human sized), as there were many creatures in the garden that do not exist today, the serpent was one of them, and the devil just chose to use that as his tool to communicate thru.

Ive read other things that suggested it was a type of dragon, there are some very interesting historical descriptions of creatures that would resemble what most people today would call a dragon.

I started a thread a long time ago with many of these historical accounts of dragons.

No. It is allegorical language. Don’t overthink things. It is, indeed, Satan to whom God speaks.

No, why would it? This is a reiteration of the Church’s teaching of creation ex nihilo.

It says nothing about either “literal” 7 day creation or a more gradual creation mechanism. It contradicts neither.

One thing that I have always found interesting is the fact that Satan, or ‘the devil’ is barely mentioned AT ALL in the entire Old Testament. Yet he is mentioned prolifically in the New Testament. If we assume that any knowledge that the Jews in the days of Jesus had about Satan came solely from the existing scripture, it makes me wonder how much they understood when Jesus talked about Satan.

That is true…very strange…I would think it would be the complete opposite, Satan would be discussed/ explained more in the OT…?

Genesis does say that “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” So God forced Satan to retain the body he had assumed?

The argument that Vatican I used the word “immediately” to mean “directly”, instead of temporality, is possible I assume, but this brings up a questions. How do we know that the Vatican I statement that God created “in the beginning” wasn’t *also *meant ontologically instead of temporarily (relating to time), thus allowing for an Aristotelian understanding of the universe? Where has the Church taught infallibly that there was once literally nothing except for God?

Allegorical, figurative language.

Satan is an angel. Angels are pure spirit. They have no material body.

See the Catechism, see Humani Generis. Creation ex nihilo isn’t exactly a new concept.

Thomas Aquinas says that there could be creation out of nothing even in an eternal creation. In principle is contingent, i.e. from nothing. I don’t remember Humani Genesis teaching about this.

On the Scripture though, if Genesis is taken allegorical without very clear reason for it, why cannot it be said that the Gospel of John (to take an example) is the “allegorical Gospel” and that what it says about Jesus’s passion is poetic? Between the tension between modern scholars who says such things and those who take Genesis literally, is there any sure rule of thumb that can be followed? Saying “day” means “age” seems fine, because even Jesus said “three days and three nights” when he really meant “a period of time close to that”. But when Genesis 3 says that Eve heard the “Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day”, that is literal in my opinion.


That’s because part of Aquinas’ project was the defense of Aristotelian philosophy, as a natural philosophy bereft of the benefit of divine revelation. So, Aquinas is defending the soundness of the reasoning, not its conclusion of an eternally-present creation.

I don’t remember Humani Genesis teaching about this.

That’s 'cause it doesn’t. :wink:

The serpent (probably dragon like figure) was cursed “upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life”.

Adam was cursed “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

The serpent eats dust, Adam is dust. If this is moved into a higher level of interpretation, devil satan consuming souls.

That would make eating souls a punishment for satan. That’s a legitimate thought

The principle stated by Leo XIII I think was that everything in the Bible should be interpreted literally until a very good reason requires a less literal understanding:

“You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

This could be interpreted as referring to Satan and Jesus. However, literal interpretation would put ahead of that interpretation the idea that there was a physical serpent to eat the dust and have his head crushed eventually by one of Eve’s children.

Also, 2 Peter 3:5 takes Genisis literally

It’s unlikely, though not impossible, that the original inspired writer of Genesis was thinking about the devil as we understand the concept at all. While he provides a fairly deep look at human responsibility for evil, it looks as though he also just threw in “Oh, and this is why people don’t like snakes, why snakes sometimes bite us, and why snakes are so weird in having no legs.” So yeah, the literal reading (and likely the only one the writer had in mind) is that God is punishing an actual snake by making it legless and hated/feared by humans.

The notion that the snake actually represents the Evil One seems to have come along later, though that doesn’t make it wrong. The New Testament supports the identification, and of course later Christian Tradition has made the declaration of enmity between the serpent and the woman and her future offspring into the first prophecy of the Redeemer.

I don’t personally take the Creation story literally – even God walking in the Garden is actually TOO literal an image for the God we actually believe in, who has neither body parts (outside the Incarnation) nor a defined location. Much as you note that Jesus is imprecise in the matter of time, thus giving us “permission” to take the days of creation as non-literal, I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus – who is God, the one time He could literally and directly communicate to us just like another person – so frequently used parables that expressed truth without being literally true accounts of real events or people. That suggests to me that God could very well have chosen to express some of His revealed truth about the Creation and the origins of evil by inspiring someone to write a myth with special trees and snakes and people created from dust or bone in an afternoon, without lying to us any more than Jesus was lying to us in talking about a certain man or woman who never existed as an individual but serves to illustrate a point about the nature of God or our moral duties.


By what criteria would you say which books of the OT are not just stories then?? Is the book of Jeremiah perhaps just as story? Historical criticism can demote different books at random to story status. I think Catholics must believe everything in the Bible literally unless there is definite reason not to in a specific case (i.e. “corners of the world”). You can’t just say “I don’t personally take the Creation story literally” because then someone else will say the same someday about the book of Acts. God can certainly assume a body and walk in a garden, in the same way that angels assumed bodies in the OT. Read Aquinas on angel’s assumed bodies

The Church does not require.that all Catholics take everything in the Bible.literally, so.I would be careful.saying what we “must” do. Even your example of obvious figurative language about the corners of the earth has been insisted upon as a literal reality in the past, and even today some people insist that a timeline derived from adding up ages in Genesis must take.priority over actual scientific observations regarding the age of the planet and the universe.

Biblical scholarship doesn’t “randomly” decide which parts of the Bible to assign to which genres of literature, but looks for clues in the text itself. Just as we can tell a fairy tale from an essay or a novel from.a biography, those who have studied the characteristics of types of literature from other eras and cultures can tell those apart by their.characteristics.

And yes, of course God could assume a visible humanoid form just as the devil could assume a serpentine form. But that means that the talk of God walking around is actually unusual behavior for God that has to be explained by ideas from outside the story, rather than an obvious signal that the story is to be taken literally.

Why can’t God enjoy a garden walk? Relying on “scholars” to find cues in the scriptures is a slippery sloop, so much that there is really no way to say “the book of John is literal but Job is just a story”. The Church has always taught that the Bible must be interpreted literally until a very definite reason points out otherwise. Laypeople and scholars forming little cliche’s in which they agree on what they think is non-literal is only going to suffer the consequences of evolution in critical research, until nearly every story in the Bible is taken as just that… a story

I believe the answer to your first question is provided by the Catechism.

[quote=CCC]109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75

110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."76

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."77

The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.78

112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79

The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80

113 2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"81).

114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit