Genesis and Augustine

I find it interesting when those who doubt the “young earth” interpretation of Genesis appeal to Augustine. It may be done just to demonstrate that not all Christians down through the ages have accepted that position and that they were still Christians, which I agree with, but I tend to think they appeal to Augustine to demonstrate the reasonableness of other positions. What follows is Gregg Allison’s quote of Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis 1, from Allison’s Historical Theology. If you’re in the mood, read Genesis 1 first, then read Augustine

Morning returns when the creature (angel) returns to praise and love of the Creator. When it does so in the knowledge of itself, that is the first day. When in the knowledge of the firmament, which is the name given to the sky between the waters above and those beneath, that is the second day. When in the knowledge of the earth, and the sea, and all things that grow out of the earth, that is the third day. When in the knowledge of the greater and less luminaries (lights) and all the stars, that is the fourth day. When in the knowledge of all animals that swim in the waters and that fly in the air, that is the fifth day. When in the knowledge of all animals that live on the earth, and of man himself, that is the sixth day.

Allison’s commentary on Augustine, “Augustine introduced a NOVELTY into the way of approaching the biblical record of creation–an allegorical, or nonliteral, interpretation. This method resulted in a view that the six days of creation were not literal days but a device to show the progressive knowledge of creation.”

It’s interesting that Allison uses the term “novelty.” Many non dispensationalists reject it for being too new in the development of doctrine for the church, but accept Augustine’s allegorical (what I would call non-sensical) interpretation of Genesis.

Gregg R. Allison Historical Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011, 259-60.

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