Sunday, April 28, 2013

Luther on the Six Days of Creation and the Church Fathers

"But this also has a bearing on our firmly holding the conviction that there were really six days on which the Lord created everything, in contrast to the opinion of Augustine and Hilary, who believed that everything was created in a single moment. They, therefore, abandon the historical account, pursuing allegories and fabricating I don’t know what speculations. However, I am not saying this to vilify the holy fathers, whose works should be held in high regard, but to establish the truth and to comfort us. They were great men, but nevertheless they were human beings who erred and who were subject to error. So we do not exalt them as do the monks, who worship all their opinions as if they were infallible. To me the great comfort seems to lie rather in this, that they are found to have erred and occasionally to have sinned. For this is my thought: If God forgave them their errors and sins, why should I despair of His pardon? The opposite brings on despair—if you should believe that they did not have the same shortcomings that you have. Moreover, it is certain that between the call of the apostles and that of the fathers there is a great difference. Why, then, should we regard the writings of the fathers as equal to those of the apostles?" [Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:121). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

"Hilary and Augustine, almost the two greatest lights of the church, hold that the world was created instantaneously and all at the same time, not successively in the course of six days [Hilary, On the Trinity, XII, ch. 40, Patrologia, Series Latina, X, 458, 459; Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram libri XII, IV, ch. 33; Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, XXVIII, Sec. III, Part I, p. 133].  Moreover, Augustine resorts to extraordinary trifling in his treatment of the six days, which he makes out to be mystical days of knowledge among the angels, not natural ones. Hence debates are customary in schools and churches concerning evening and morning knowledge, subjects brought up by Augustine and scrupulously propounded by Lyra. Whoever wants to gain a knowledge of them, let him get it from Lyra" [Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:4). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

Addendum: Catholic Answers
"The writings of the Fathers, who were much closer than we are in time and culture to the original audience of Genesis, show that this was not the case [a consensus on literal days of creation]. There was wide variation of opinion on how long creation took. Some said only a few days; others argued for a much longer, indefinite period...Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period, according to how they see the evidence, and subject to any future judgment of the Church (Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis 36–37). They need not be hostile to modern cosmology." [source]


PeaceByJesus said...

Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period,

among multitude other things they are at liberty to believe within the parameters of Rome, despite the argument of unity under that the mighty magisterium, whicf infers more unity than is reality.

They can also deny OT historical accounts (Tower of Babel, Balaam, Jonah, etc.) were real events, and that Jesus actually gave the sermon on the Mount, etc.

But then attribute all sort of things to Mary above that which is written. As Scripture is not the sure basis for their doctrine.

Rooney said...

Well, I have seen people on CAF defend theistic evolution as compatible with the RCC's teachings.

If I were a RC apologist, I would want a Pope to clear this creation/evolution controversy up soon.

James Swan said...

hey can also deny OT historical accounts (Tower of Babel, Balaam, Jonah, etc.)

If you have any documentation on Jonah and their freedom on his historicity, I'd certainly be interested in seeing it. Luther has come under scrutiny from Romanists claiming he denigrated the Bible for questioning the historicity of Jonah. As some of my older blog entries have shown, Luther did not deny the historicity of Jonah.

It certainly would bring the whole thing full circle if you could provide me with something confirming the comment you posted. I'll enjoy posting on the irony.

James Swan said...

If I were a RC apologist, I would want a Pope to clear this creation/evolution controversy up soon..

I doubt this would ever happen. Mary stuff they can make declarations on. When it comes to issues of great importance, the Papal chair grows very silent.

PeaceByJesus said...

If you have any documentation on Jonah and their freedom on his historicity, I'd certainly be interested in seeing it

Just see the notes in the NAB, St. Joseph’s medium size, Catholic publishing co., copyright 1970, which has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur stamps of sanction.

"The Bible is God’s word and man’s word. One must understand man’s word first in order to understand the word of God." ("A Library of Books," p. 19) and later warns,

“You may hear interpreters of the Bible who are literalists or fundamentalists. They explain the Bible according to the letter: Eve really ate from the apple and Jonah was miraculously kept alive in the belly of the whale. Then there are ultra-liberal scholars who qualify the whole Bible as another book of fairly tales. Catholic Bible scholars follow the sound middle of the road.” (Sect. 15. “How do you know”)

It also “explains”, under “Literary Genres” (p. 19) that Genesis 2 (Adam and Eve and creation details) and Gn. 3 (the story of the Fall), Gn. 4:1-16 (Cain and Abel), Gn. 6-8 (Noah and the Flood), and Gn. 11:1-9 (Tower of Babel: the footnotes on which state, in part, “an imaginative origin of the diversity of the languages among the various peoples inhabiting the earth”) are “folktales,” using allegory to teach a religious lesson.

It next states that the story of Balaam and the donkey and the angel (Num. 22:1-21; 22:36-38) was a fable, while the records of Gn. (chapters) 37-50 (Joseph), 12-36 (Abraham, Issaac, Jacob), Exodus, Judges 13-16 (Samson) 1Sam. 17 (David and Goliath) and that of the Exodus are stories which are "historical at their core," but overall the author simply used mere "traditions" to teach a religious lesson. After all, its understanding that “Inspiration is guidance” means that Scripture is “God’s word and man’s word.” What this means is that the NAB rejects such things as that the Bible's attribution of Divine sanction to wars of conquest, “cannot be qualified as revelation from God,” and states,

Think of the ‘holy wars’ of total destruction, fought by the Hebrews when they invaded Palestine. The search for meaning in those wars centuries later was inspired, but the conclusions which attributed all those atrocities to the command of God were imperfect and provisional." (4. "Inspiration and Revelation," p. 18)

The current NAB footnote ( to Gn. 1:26 states that “sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth,” thus negating this as literal, and God as referring to Himself in the plural (“Us” or “Our”) which He does 6 times in the OT. Likewise, the current footnote regarding the Red Sea (Ex. 10:19) informs readers regarding what the Israelites crossed over that it is literally the Reed Sea, which was “probably a body of shallow water somewhat to the north of the present deep Red Sea.” Thus rendered, the miracle would have been Pharaoh’s army drowning in shallow waters!

It likewise explains as regards to the sons of heaven [God] having relations with the daughters of men, as “apparently alluding to an old legend.” and explains away the flood as a story that “ultimately draws upon an ancient Mesopotamian tradition of a great flood.” Its teaching also imagines the story as being a composite account with discrepancies.

The 1970 footnote on Gen. 6:1-4 likewise states, “This is apparently a fragment of an old legend that had borrowed much from ancient mythology.” It goes on to explain the “sons of heaven” are “the celestial beings of mythology.”

In addition, even the ages of the patriarchs after the flood are deemed to be “artificial and devoid of historical value.” (Genesis 11:10-26)

PeaceByJesus said...

All of which impugns the overall literal nature the O.T. historical accounts, and as Scripture interprets Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit refers to such stories as being literal historical events:

(Adam and Eve: Mt. 19:4;
The Flood: Mt. 27:37,38; Heb. 11:17; 1Pt. 3:20,21; 2Pt. 2:5; 3:6
Abraham, Issac, Exodus and Moses: Acts 7; Rm. 4; Heb. 11;
Jonah and the fish: Mt. 12:39-41;
Balaam and the donkey: 2Pt. 2:15; Jude. 1:1; Rev. 2:14).

Indeed, “the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety” (2Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9), and if Jonah did not spend 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the whale then neither did the Lord, while Israel's history is always and inclusively treated as literal.

Then there is the revisionist take on the NT. See here for more.

And Traditional type RCs also chastise the NAB for its liberalism, using the 1992 version which apparently has the same study helps and footnotes, as it has had 4 revisions , yet the current online version also subscribes to the discredited JEDP theory, and as noted above it also relegate stories the NT treats as historical to being fables, as in teaching ,

"The plot of Gn 2–11 (creation, the flood, renewed creation) has been borrowed from creation-flood stories attested in Mesopotamian literature of the second and early first millennia."

"How should modern readers interpret the creation-flood story in Gn 2–11? The stories are neither history nor myth. “Myth” is an unsuitable term, for it has several different meanings and connotes untruth in popular English. “History” is equally misleading, for it suggests that the events actually took place. The best term is creation-flood story."

Re the historicity of Jonah, the intro simply states ,

"As to genre, it has been classified in various ways, such as parable or satire."

James Swan said...


A few years back I pointed out that some self-appointed Roman apologists were providing their own apologetic materials inserted into the NAB, and that these materials actually contradicted the NAB notes. See:

The New Catholic (Right and Wrong) Answer Bible

 The New Catholic (Right and Wrong) Answer Bible, Update

The NAB Perpetuating "a serious problem for millions of Catholics"

This caused a stir at the time, and provoked a lot of discussion, much of which is now removed because I hit the target so well, and the discussions got out of hand.

The "Jonah" NAB material will certainly make it into a forthcoming post, thx!

PeaceByJesus said...

Glad to be of some help. Searching Google books places it on p. 24 of the First Communion Bible-NAB-Saint Joseph. from the Catholic Book Pub Co, 1999 - Bibles - 1593 pages

Karl Winterling said...

The NAB/NABRE footnotes are pretty much "Roman Catholic" in name only and were written by liberal seminary professors. Around the time of the Council of Trent, expressing the opinions in some of the notes (or promoting a Bible translation not based on the Vulgate) probably would've gotten you burned at the stake. But, uh, the "Magisterium" isn't supposed to change...