Interpretation of the Hexaemeron (Six Days of Creation)


Hi everyone,

Most people know the inspired account of creation found in Gen. 1, with the six days of creation narrated. Many interpretations have been offered. I’m interested in seeing which ones are held to.

Oh yeah, I should mention that this is poll and thread for orthodox Catholics only.

In the first place, I want to mention that this is more than just literal vs. figurative. This is a little more precise.

The various theories that have been proposed are:

The Verbal Theory: This theory holds that the six days are to be interpreted more or less literally, meaning that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days. In support of this there is the great weight of many Church fathers such as St. Basil, St. Gregory, St. Thomas etc. Against this is the very large corpus of scientific evidence.

The Gap Theory: This theory holds that there exists a gap, possible billions of years between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 starting with which it’s read more or less literally. Thus they seek to harmonize the appearance of billions of light years with the Mosaic account. In support of this view, it does help at least ameliorate some of the scientific difficulties posed by the Verbal Theory, but against it lies the fact that the remaining scientific difficulties are not explained away, the lack of Traditional support for it, and the rather forced reading this imposes on the Divine account.

The Day-Age Theory: This theory holds that the six days represent, more or less, six long ages of cosmological/geological/biological history. That is, God created the heavens and the earth, but where the Scriptures use the word “day” to mean ages. In support of this view, it helps reconcile the inspired narrative with scientific evidence. Against this view is lack of tradition in the Church, and also the fact there are words for ages in Hebrew which could have been used.

The Vision Theory: This theory holds that the six days represent a vision of either Adam (traditionally) or Moses or the inspired editor, and that the vision has some bearing on the created reality, but not necessarily a literal or analogical concordance, as the above two theories hold. In support of this theory, it avoids a slavish adherence in trying to reconcile the Scriptures with science; moreover St. Gregory the Great could cited as an authority in this regard (he says Moses prophesied about the past). On the other hand, there is no mention of any vision in the text, which is normally otherwise given when a vision is occurring, and the fact that it seems somewhat forced.

The Idealistic Theory: This theory holds that the six days represent six conceptions or ideas in the Divine Mind, by which God created and arranged the things of the world. In other words, the truth of the narrative exists in the Creator not in creation. St. Augustine to a certain extent holds this opinion. In support of this theory, the difficulties of reconciling the account with science disappear all together. Moreover, the objective reality of the narrative is preserved. On the other hand, there is little evidence in Scripture to support this theory, and the use of the word “day” seems somewhat odd, given that the Scriptures could have just as easily said “First, God created…, second, God created…etc.”, without mention “day”, “night”, “evening”, “morning” etc.

The Liturgical/Poetic Theory: This theory holds that the six days are poetic device used to construct a liturgical hymn or reading or something of that sort. In support of this theory, the sanctity of the Sabbath is certainly brought out by the text. Against this theory is that it virtually destroys the objective nature of the Hexaemeron, and the fact, the no Churchman held this view.

The Literary Theory: This theory holds that the six days are a literary device used to distinguish the creative act of God, and to teach the sanctity of the Sabbath. It distinguishes itself from the liturgical theory in that it does preserve the historical nature of the Hexaemeron, but it sees the specific mention of days as merely a literary figure, rather than ideas in the Divine Mind, or literal days or ages. In support of this view, is the fact that this theory does not seem forced, and seems somewhat supported by Ex. 20:11, and moreover, St. Augustine seems to have held this view to a certain extent. Against this view is that, like the Liturgical Theory, it removes an objective reality from the six days, which is rather contrary to Tradition.

Anyway, please take the poll and post a reason for why you chose the view you did below.

Benedicat Deus,


These are not all exactly mutually exclusive…


Well, this maybe true. I guess I should add, which theory best explains your view?

Benedicat Deus,


What I have been taught in our theology classes by the Diocese itself was a combination of Liturgical/Literary. That the structure of the song is rather distinct and fits in with the Priestly authorship vs the Yahwist. The days are indeed a literary device used to portray God’s relationship with creation, but most importantly it was written down by the inspired editors at different times for different reasons. Both being kept in tact because they were both oral traditions.

The thing is the 1st chapter there has a distinct meter and rhyme to it, that of Hebrew song or poetry. Whereas Chapter 2 begins as an epic narrative and is more familiar to the Yahwist writer than the priestly. We spent quite a bit of time studying JEDP and what that entails for textual criticism and biblical scholarship.

To add, it is believed that the Yahwist text was compiled around the time of Solomon’s temple (990-800 b.c.) and was probably added to by the priestly writer/editor during the exile or after from Babylon (597ish B.C.). Still quite a bit of debate out there to the accuracy of that though as more scholarship continues.


I chose Other. I chose that because none of those interpretations matches mine. When I go and read the Hexaemeron, I tend to look primarily for the doctrines that the Church says the document was meant to teach. These include that God created the world, He gave it order and beauty and goodness, He desires man to have stewardship over creation, and original sin. That’s my interpretation. And it seems to me that any of those other interpretations are all compatible with it, because they all allow for what the Church teaches. To me, it’s like the different theories surrounding predestination, such as Molinism, Augustinism, Compatibilism, and Thomism. Well, they’re all compatible with the Church. As long as we teach what the Church teaches, that’s the main thing.


The only view I hold is that the 6 days are NOT 6 literal 24 hour periods.


I hold that the writer(s) superimposed a literal period of six 24-hour days over a spiritual, non-scientific, non-exhaustive description of creation, culminating in the 7th day, the sabbath day of rest. The whole emphasis was to build up to the seventh day, on which all of creation pauses for an entire day to worship the Creator. God created mankind to worship Him.

The number seven is poetically emphasized in that the Hebrew verses consist of seven words or multiples of seven words. Some words are repeated or left out to make the word count come out correctly.

Science says that in the early earth, the length of day was 6 hours. No matter whether it is six or twenty-four, we spin around to view all of God’s creation, within the scope of our senses. Infinity boggles my mind; I can’t imagine it. It is the aspect of the physical universe that seems most to resemble its Creator. Scripture someplace seems to rely on that, that we can know God by looking at his creation.

by no coincidence, this is post #7 in this thread. See how that works?


It is foolishness to argue that the’day’ mentioned in the beginning of the book of genesis is not the day as understood by the humans.It will be interesting to know as to when the doubt arose about the 'day ’ and the so called theories on hexaemeron etc.came up.It was obviously only a couple of centuries back when man slowly but surely began to understand the scientific position that the earth or its creatures could not have been created in 6 days .( Recently there was a news that a rock of more than 5 million years old was discovered in Africa.).It is also interesting to note that the doubt so far is only in respect of the day mentioned in the beginning of Genesis dealing with earth’s origin and not for the days mentioned elsewhere in the OT or NT. As and when some unrefutable evidences come up against any time period mentioned elsewhere also we can expect more such ‘theories’ as a firefighting exercise.
My point is that we need not unnecessarily bother about the correctness of the time period mentioned in the bible.So is the position about the exact no.of the people animals etc.inluded, counted, killed etc or about the quantity ,measurement etc mentioned especially in OT where the figures are already mind blogging. No need to run for cover or to invent any excuses or theories in case their correctness is proved wrong. The only thing is that we should be confident in our belief on God ,on our Redeemer Jesus Christ,his teachings and in the everlasting life to come. Questions such as whether it is 6 days or 60 million days is insignificant in this regard.


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