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Thursday, May 24, 2007

St. Augustine, Exegesis, and Origins

The June, 2005 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith is now available freely on the Internet. I found one of the articles to be of especial interest. (You may have different interests -- look at the Table of Contents) That was "The Relevance of Augustine's View of Creation Re-evaluated," by Andrew J. Brown. Although the article is indicated as being for students and scientists in the early part of their careers, it is not an instant read, because it is 12 .PDF pages long, and because the issues are complex. Brown writes well, and understands the relevant literature. Any intelligent person who reads English, and has some idea of what "exegesis" means, should be able to comprehend what Brown has to say.

As Brown says, "Augustine is perhaps the most important thinker amongst church fathers on creation in Genesis." (p. 135) (See here for Wikipedia article on St. Augustine.)

One reason Brown has written this article is that Augustine gets misquoted, or quoted out of context. Another reason is that the very important issue of when the earth, and its inhabitants, were created, remains just that, an important issue.

It is not possible to summarize all that Brown says about Augustine in the space usually allotted to a blog post, and without plagiarizing Brown. Let me put it this way -- Augustine does not fall readily into any of the categories of beliefs on origins that come readily to mind in the present day (such as young-earth creationism, day-age belief, and the like) and he believed that Genesis 1 could be interpreted in more than one way.

People concerned about exegesis, about Augustine, and about origins owe it to themselves to read Brown's article.

Thanks for reading this post.


Jeremy Pierce said...

I think the most common view among Genesis scholars is that the six days don't correspond either to six 24-hour periods or to any other length of time but are a literary device and don't even necessarily indicate chronological order. Augustine does seem to suggest something like that at one point, even if his argument for it is very strange to modern ears and isn't going to find much support nowadays.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Jeremy. I think you are right.