How literal is Genesis?


I’m going to try keep this question as far from an Evolution one and as close to a discussion of Scripture one as I can. If it is a banned topic I do apologise in advance, but I have to ask this question somewhere.
It’s this:
In recent times it seems as though more Catholics seem to be accepting the “theistic evolution” theory as an explanation for the origins of human life. Fair enough, the Church teaches that this is not against faith and morals (as far as I am aware).

However, in light of the growing acceptance (granted, not by all), of this theory, how can one square it with the Genesis account of creation?
For instance details in Genesis like the creation of woman from Adam’s rib: how does this make any sense? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
I can’t accept that God’s inspired word contains accounts that are not true, so how do theistic evolutionists square that view with Genesis?

Again, I know this is an evolution related question but I don’t know where else to ask this and I want answers so I am willing to risk being banned. Hopefully we can keep the focus more on a discussion of the literalness of the Genesis account of creation.

Thanks and God bless.


The Catechism says this:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

289 Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation - its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the “beginning”: creation, fall, and promise of salvation.

The creation story isn’t meant to tell us scientific details. When Moses related the creation to Israel and later Jewish Scripture scholars gathered together the creation stories that had been passed down orally, they were only interested in telling us that God is the beginning of all things, what we owe to him, and how we came to lose our original connection to him. The language is metaphorical and mythological–mere literary devices to tell us truths about God and our relation to him. This doesn’t mean that Adam and Eve didn’t exist nor that the creation stories can’t be trusted, but rather that the creation stories were meant to tell us who God is and who we as human beings.


It is often stated that Augustinus did not take Gensesis literal. On the other side Basilius believed that Genesis was a vision Moses had and took it quite literal. However, the problems with visions are, that sometimes not even the person who had this vision knows how literal he has to take it. So it looks to me that there is no Tradition of how literal it actually was, and this is reflected by the missing consent the church fathers had.


First. Check the sticky notes at the top of this Forum for banned topics in this Forum.

Second. I truly doubt that “Theistic Evolution” can accept all the Catholic doctrines of human origin which includes the “population size” of two sole real fully-complete humans as the originating population of humankind.

Third. Trying to “morally” square Theistic Evolution with a “literal” first three chapters of Genesis is, in my humble opinion, a road of rocks leading nowhere.
Instead of :banghead: one should compare the verses in the first three chapters of Genesis with actual Catholic doctrines.

When trying to live a moral life, one must start with Genesis 1: 26-27 and the companion verses Genesis 2: 15-17 checking them with Catholic theology.


Two better questions are –

What are the Catholic doctrines flowing from the first three chapters of Genesis?

In the first three chapters of Genesis, are there any instructions devoted to the way we need to live our life?

Once these questions are answered, I do not see how Catholics can be comfortable with theistic evolution. The Catholic Church has very important doctrines that go beyond the “theistic” concept that God used the evolution model to set things in motion.

Here are some Catholic resources which will help with a few of the science questions.

Link to Catholic article published in Crisis Magazine online:…e-really-exist

Additional Catholic article…genesis-story/

Informative Catholic website

The new expanded third edition of the book *Origin of the Human Species *by Catholic author Dr. Dennis Bonnette includes the article “The Myth of the “Myth” of Adam and Eve” as Appendix One. Appendix Two is “The Philosophical Impossibility of Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution”

[/FONT] 70&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Origin+of+the+human+spe cies++Bonnette


Yes, AIUI the Church allows the TE position, with certain caveats.

However, in light of the growing acceptance (granted, not by all), of this theory, how can one square it with the Genesis account of creation?
For instance details in Genesis like the creation of woman from Adam’s rib: how does this make any sense? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
I can’t accept that God’s inspired word contains accounts that are not true, so how do theistic evolutionists square that view with Genesis?

Science cannot count every single tree on Earth. The existence of two special trees, in a place that in now no longer accessible by humans, is not a problem for science. There is zero evidence either for or against the trees. Most scientists will see magic trees as mythical, true, but that is their personal opinion only.

Similarly for the story of the creation of Eve. Adding a single miraculously produced individual to a pre-existing population will have no detectable effect in the present. Again, science can say nothing. Most scientists will probably treat it as a myth, but again that is their opinion.

Science only steps in as science when we would expect to see scientifically detectable effects in the present. Noah’s flood is a good example. Science sees evidence of many local floods at many different dates and locations. It does not see evidence of a single relatively recent year-long worldwide flood in either geology or genetics. If such a thing had happened then science would be able to detect it. Science can detect smaller and older floods. Science, as a matter of science, can deny the literal interpretation of Noah’s Flood, because it has the actual evidence to do so. Science does not have any evidence to either confirm or deny the miraculous creation of Eve.




I take the first sentence of Genesis to be an absolute truth, In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.

If God can create the universe, then all other miracles are minor by comparison, virgin births, raising the dead, talking bushes.

The bible is not a book to explain the science of creation, I personally think evolution is wrong, and God created everything according to its kind. Even if evolution happened, I believe it would be impossible without God.




In high school we were taught that the creations story has three main points that you had to accept.

  1. God created the world.
  2. God created Man
  3. There was a first man and woman and a fall from grace.

Personally I think it is over simplistic to stop contemplating it there.


"Real History

"The argument is that all of this is real history, it is simply ordered topically rather than chronologically, and the ancient audience of Genesis, it is argued, would have understood it as such.

"Even if Genesis 1 records God’s work in a topical fashion, it still records God’s work—things God really did.

"The Catechism explains that “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” (CCC 337), but “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 is rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun” (CCC 338).

"It is impossible to dismiss the events of Genesis 1 as a mere legend. They are accounts of real history, even if they are told in a style of historical writing that Westerners do not typically use.

"Adam and Eve: Real People

"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

"In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

“The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).”

Creating Eve from Adam’s rib (or side) is something God can do, just as Jesus raised the dead without the use of modern medical equipment.

Hope this helps,


By no means! It’s not that they are “not true” – the Scripture accounts are true, but their truth may not be found on the level of literal historical fact.

so how do theistic evolutionists square that view with Genesis?

A ‘theistic evolutionist’ recognizes that the creation accounts aren’t scientific essays – in fact, the genre of Genesis 1 is ‘epic poetry’ – and therefore, the truth that’s found there uses certain forms of expression that differ from, for example, a news report.


On the other hand, there are no scientific, peer reviewed papers like, A Scientific Examination of the Claims Made in the Book of Genesis of the Christian Bible.



When considering the creation accounts (plural intended), one must take into account the dramatic shift from Genesis1: 25 to Genesis 1: 26.

When considering theistic evolution, one must take into account the leap from the material/physical universe in Genesis 1: 1-25 to the spiritual world of the Creator which begins with Genesis 1: 26.

It is now valuably apparent, that the Catholic Church directly opposes the contemporary science theory which is that humankind owes its origin to a rather large random breeding humanizing population. Recall that the Catholic doctrine is that humankind descended from a population of** two** sole real true fully-complete parents of all humankind.


Why would one have to do that?

I can’t accept that God’s inspired word contains accounts that are not true, so how do theistic evolutionists square that view with Genesis?

How about asking them?


Did God ‘create’ any other human beings or were Adam and Eve the first and only and if so, does that mean that ‘Incest’ was committed?


Leaving their first home, Adam with his spouse Eve began humankind. In the very beginning, marriage between siblings was necessarily proper. This marriage between equals maintained the family structure and roles of two parents and their children. At this first stage in humankind, Genesis 1: 28 would be applicable. The sin of incest occurred when a parent and a child had sexual relations. This kind of rape destroyed the structure of a family unit. Given the length of female fertility and quickly overlapping generations, early descendants were able to properly marry cousins. Again, rape or forced marriage was considered sinful.

From the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition.
Paragraph 2356.
*Rape *is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.

Paragraph 2388
*Incest *designates intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them. St. Paul stigmatizes this especially grave offense: "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you . . . for a man is living with his father’s wife. . . . In the name of the Lord Jesus . . . you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. . . . " Incest corrupts family relationships and marks a regression toward animality.

What is important is that in human society, “laws” were subsequently established that prohibited marriage within certain degrees between relatives or in-laws. “Incest” is the designation for violations.

From the biological position, inherited genetic disease would not have occurred in the first generations of humankind, because there were not sufficient ancestor gene mutations to be truly significant.


So, Adam and Eve’s kids must have had intercourse with each other to produce more children?


Incest didn’t only happen with Adam and Eve’s children. Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half sister. But since there were lots of humans on earth by then, I don’t know why God didn’t seem to mind that they practiced incest.

Genesis 20:

1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, 2 Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”

8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’” 14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15 Abimelech said, “My land is before you; settle where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your exoneration before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.


May I tweak this to Adam and Eve’s own kids could marry each other and produce children. When Adam and Eve’s kids had casual intercourse with each other, not marriage, that was seriously sinful. Within few generations, children could find mates (marriage) outside of the immediate family which naturally would be more appealing.


This is where i think you cannot take the Bible, in places as literal.


The literal aspect is not the real issue in the first three chapters of Genesis.

The Catholic Church seeks Divine Revelation within Sacred Scripture, for example the first three chapters of Genesis. In declaring and defining Divine Revelation, it follows the protocol of seeking the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as promised in chapter 14, Gospel of John. This takes place within major ecumenical Church Councils.

Divine Revelation is not only meant for the early history of the Hebrews. It is meant for all people regardless of when they are born. Therefore, the universal Catholic Church looks for the Divine truth in the descriptive words.

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