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six days, the Catholic exegete is just as free as the non-Catholic. As you know, the Council of Trent claims for the Church the right of deciding on the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture in questions of faith and morality; and it declares that, in "questions of faith and morality," the interpretation of the Bible must not go against the unanimis consensus patrum, against the doctrines shown by the Fathers unanimously to belong to Christian revelation. I need not discuss whether the explanation of the six days at all affects "questions of faith and morality;" the following quotations from S. Augustine will show that there could be no question of a unanimis consensus patrum concerning it, or of an explanation of the six days handed down from the Fathers through the traditions of the Church. "It is very difficult, arduum et difficillimum est, to understand what Moses meant by these six days."1 "If any one wishes for any other explanation but that I have stated, let him seek it, and with God's help find it. It is not impossible that I myself may find another which agrees better with the words of Holy Scripture. For I do not confidently bring forward my present explanation, as if no other or no better one could be. found." 2 And in another passage of a later work he says: "It is difficult and almost impossible for us to imagine, much more to describe, the nature of these days."3 S. Thomas also testifies to the fact that there is no consensus patrum with reference to this point. He begins his discussion of the six days with these words: "S. Augustine
1 De Gen. ad lit. iv. 1. 3 Be Gen. ad lit. iv. 23.
'Civ. Dei, xi. 6.
does not agree with other interpreters on this point." He then states both theories, and expressly observes that he does not wish to prejudice any one in favour of either, as the difference between them may be important exegetically, but not dogmatically.1
I may further remind you with regard to the theological admissibility of the broader view of the six days, that many Roman Catholic savants either have declared that their opinion alone is the right one, or, even while disputing it on other grounds, have allowed that it is admissible from an ecclesiastical point of view; and also that it has been stated in books printed in Rome, with every "imprimatur" required by the rules of the Church. There can be no question of more or less orthodoxy with reference to these theories, for their connection with dogma is so slight that they cannot be the objects of an ecclesiastical decision. And if it is anti-ecclesiastical to advance theories which either directly or indirectly contravene the acknowledged doctrines of the Church, on the other hand it is neither ecclesiastical nor scientific to designate questions which are quite independent of the decision of the Church as "more or less orthodox, favoured by or admitted by the Church," etc. The Church is quite neutral with regard to this question, and we may therefore freely proceed to inquire how far the different theories about the six days may be scientifically and above all exegetically justified.
1 Summa Theol. i. q. 74, a. 2; cf. in 2. 1; Sent . dist. xii. q. 1, a. 2. Schanz, der h. Thomas und das Hexsmeron, Tubingen QuartalscAr. 1878, p. 3.
THE SIX DAYS.
I Propose to inquire to-day what we are to understand by the six days of the Mosaic account of creation. This inquiry, however, will, as I have explained in my last lecture, be at first purely exegetical; that is, I shall for the present entirely leave aside all the teaching of natural science with reference to the duration of the period of creation, and simply ascertain what Genesis tells us about it. We may therefore put the question in this form: What period of time must the exegete assume to have elapsed during the creation of things, between the first act of creation and its termination? or, What period of time does Genesis suppose to have elapsed between the beginning of God's creative activity and the creation of the last creature, man? or, As time begins with God's first creative act, what length of time was there according to Genesis before the appearance of man on the earth?
The first explanation of the six days which we find in both ancient and modern writers, is that according to which they each signify periods of twenty-four hours. As there are innumerable instances in Holy Scripture where the word day has this meaning, from an exegetical point of view there is nothing to prevent our so understanding it in the first chapter of Genesis. There is a difficulty only in the following circumstance. No doubt God instituted the alternation of light and darkness which we call day and night on the first day; but it was on the fourth day that He placed the sun and moon in the heavens, to give light on the earth, and to rule the day and the night. Therefore the regular alternation of day and night as connected with the rising and setting of the sun began only on the fourth day, and it is only since then that days like the present can have existed. Of what kind then were the three days which preceded the fourth day on which the present relation between the sun and the earth was fixed? Two things are possible. The first three days may have resembled the present days in so far that they consisted of a single alternation of light and darkness, and lasted twenty-four hours, although the alternation of light and darkness was not the result of the rising and setting of the sun, but of some other cause. In this case we should have, as the old commentators say, three natural and three "artificial" days of twenty-four hours each.1 But it is also possible that the first three days simply meant in a general way that each consisted of one alternation of light and darkness, and that this alternation which now lasts for twenty-fours hours, because it depends on the rising and setting of the sun, was of longer duration before the fourth day. In this case the Hexaemeron would consist of three days of twenty-four hours each, and of three of uncertain duration.
As we have already seen,2 the first day begins with the creation of light. The period described in ver. 2,
1 Cf. Aug. de Gen. c. Man. i. 14. 20. • P. 123.
in which the earth was without form and void, would therefore be before the first day. Genesis does not say how long a period elapsed between the beginning of God's creative activity and the beginning of the first of the six days. God may possibly have created the heaven and earth as a formless mass, thohu wabohu, and have begun at once to produce the kosmos from this chaos, so that only one moment preceded the first day. But it is also possible, as I have already shown,1 that the beginning of God's creative activity described in ver. 1, and the dawn of the first of the six days described in ver. 3, were separated from one another by a long period of time.
We have therefore two different forms of the literal explanation of the six days. According to the first, the whole period from the beginning of the creation to the appearance of man on the earth consisted of six days of twenty-four hours each.2 According to the other, this period consisted first of a space of time of uncertain length, preceding the first of the six days, and secondly of six days of which the last three at any rate were each twenty-four hours long.8 Both theories are exegetically admissible ; we must ascertain later whether they can be reconciled with the results of natural science.
To these theories, which are grounded on the literal
» P. 112.
* "Ver. 2 describes the condition in which the earth was directly after the creation of the universe. We must consider the days of creation as ordinary days, without supposing that there was any important difference between the three first, and the three last, which were defined by sunrise and sunset." Thus Keil, Genesis, pp. 16-19. Also C. B. Geology, etc.; Sorignet, Vieth, Bosizio, and the author of Creation a recent Work of God.
s For this theory and other similar ones, see Chalmers, Buckland, Sedgwick, Wiseman, A. Wagner, Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Vosen, Fabre d'Envieu, and others.