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Genesis literally


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#1 Rick James York

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 01:51 PM

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Let's stop the arguments and make two separate threads to keep all good Christians happy.

This thread only for proofs and interpretations with Biblical and patristic quotes as back up, for the literal interpretation of Genesis without any criticisms or debates from evolutionists at all. Creationists can also quote from Orthodox writers who are not canonised saints.

The other thread for evolutionists.

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#2 Rick James York

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:38 PM

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Below are some of Fr Sraphim's words on Genesis from a letter he wrote. It can be seen that St. Basil accepts Genesis literally.

And now I ask you to examine with me the very important and fundamental question: how do the holy Fathers teach us to interpret the book of Genesis? Let us put away our preconceptions about "literal" or "allegorical" interpretations, and let us see what the holy Fathers teach us about reading the text of Genesis.

We cannot do better than to begin with St. Basil himself, who has written so inspiringly of the Six Days of Creation. In the Hexaemeron he writes:Those who do not admit the common meaning of the Scriptures say that water is not water, but some other nature, and they explain a plant and a fish according to their opinion. They describe also the production of reptiles and wild animals, changing it according to their own notions, just like the dream interpreters, who interpret for their own ends the appearances seen in their dreams.

When I hear grass, I think of grass, and in the same manner I understand everything as it is said, a plant, a fish, a wild animal, and an ox. Indeed, I am not ashamed of the Gospel.... Since Moses left unsaid, as useless for us, things in no way pertaining to us, shall we for this reason believe that the words of the Spirit are of less value than the foolish wisdom (of those who have written about the world)? Or shall I rather give gloryto Him Who has not kept our mind occupied with vanities but has ordained that all things be written for the edification and guidance of our souls?

This is a thing of which they seem to me to have been unaware, who have attempted by false arguments and allegorical interpretations to bestow on the Scripture a dignity of their own imagining. But theirs is the attitude of one who considers himself wiser than the revelations of the Spirit and introduces his own ideas in pretense of an explanation. Therefore, let It be understood as it has been written. (Hexaemeron, IX, 1)

Clearly, St. Basil is warning us to beware of "explaining away" things in Genesis which are difficult for our common sense to understand; it is very easy for the "enlightened" modern man to do this, even if he is an Orthodox Christian. Let us therefore try all the harder to understand the sacred Scripture as the Fathers understand it, and not according to our modern "wisdom."


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#3 Rick James York

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:53 PM

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Below are some more words from Fr Seraphim's letter on Genesis.

And let us not be satisfied with the views of one holy Father; let us examine the views of other holy Fathers as well.

One of the standard patristic commentaries on the book of Genesis is that of St. Ephraim the Syrian. But let us see what St. Ephraim says in his commentary on Genesis:

No one should think that the Creation of Six Days is an allegory; it is likewise impermissible to say that what seems, according to the account, to have been created in the course of six days, was created in a single instant, and likewise that certain names presented in this account either signify nothing, or signify something else.

On the contrary, one must know that just as the heaven and the earth which were created in the beginning are actually the heaven and the earth and not something else understood under the names of heaven and earth, so also everything else that is spoken of as being created and brought into order after the creation of heaven and earth is not empty names, but the very essence of the created natures corresponds to the force of these names. (Commentary on Genesis, ch. I)

These are still, of course, general principles; let us look now at several specific applications by St. Ephraim of these principles.

Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and the night of the first day continued for 12 hours each. (Ibid.)

Again: When in the twinkling of an eye (Adam's) rib was taken out and likewise in an instant the flesh took its place, and the bare rib took on the complete form and all the beauty of a woman, then God led her and presented her to Adam. (Ibid.)

It is quite clear that St. Ephraim reads the book of Genesis "as it is written"; when he hears "the rib of Adam" he understands "the rib of Adam," and does not understand this as an allegorical way of saying something else altogether. Likewise he quite explicitly understands the Six Days of Creation to be just six days, each with 24 hours, which he divides into an "evening and "morning" of 12 hours each.


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#4 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 07:08 PM

What strikes me most in the way the Fathers write about the orginal creation is the striking beauty of it. Here is a text from St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Making of Man, Ch. 1):

Now all things were already arrived at their own end: "the heaven and the earth ," as Moses says, "were finished," and all things that lie between them, and the particular things were adorned with their appropriate beauty; the heaven with the rays of the stars, the sea and air with the living creatures that swim and fly, and the earth with all varieties of plants and animals, to all which, empowered by the Divine will, it gave birth together; the earth was full, too, of her produce, bringing forth fruits at the same time with flowers; the meadows were full of all that grows therein, and all the mountain ridges, and summits, and every hillside, and slope, and hollow, were crowned with young grass, and with the varied produce of the trees, just risen from the ground, yet shot up at once into their perfect beauty; and all the beasts that had come into life at God's command were rejoicing, we may suppose, and skipping about, running to and for in the thickets in herds according to their kind, while every sheltered and shady spot was ringing with the chants of the songbirds. And at sea, we may suppose, the sight to be seen was of the like kind, as it had just settled to quiet and calm in the gathering together of its depths, where havens and harbours spontaneously hollowed out on the coasts made the sea reconciled with the land; and the gentle motion of the waves vied in beauty with the meadows, rippling delicately with light and harmless breezes that skimmed the surface; and all the wealth of creation by land and sea was ready, and none was there to share it.

#5 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 08:41 PM

St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Making of Man, Ch 29) is emphatic that MAN - body and soul were created together not first one and "then" the other (or the other way around for that matter).



1. Nor again are we in our doctrine to begin by making up man like a clay figure, and to say that the soul came into being for the sake of this; for surely in that case the intellectual nature would be shown to be less precious than the clay figure. But as man is one, the being consisting of soul and body, we are to suppose that the beginning of his existence is one, common to both parts, so that he should not be found to be antecedent and posterior to himself...
2. For as our nature is conceived as twofold, according to the apostolic teaching, made up of the visible man and the hidden man, if the one came first and the other supervened, the power of Him that made us will be shown to be in some way imperfect, as not being completely sufficient for the whole task at once, but dividing the work, and busying itself with each of the halves in turn.

In other words St. Gregory is saying that our God is not a demiurge who needs time and a process for creation. He created orderly but instantaneously.



#6 John M.

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 02:16 AM

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That was St Gregory of Nyssa. Here is St Gregory Palamas.

Where can we learn anything certain and true about God, about the world as a whole, and about ourselves? Is it not from the teaching of the Holy Spirit? For this teaching has taught us that God is the only Being that truly is — the only eternal and immutable Being — who neither receives being from non—being nor returns to non-being; who is Tri-hypostatic and Almighty, and who through His Logos brought forth all things from non-being in six days or, rather, as Moses states, He created them instantaneously. For we have heard him say, ‘First of all God created heaven and earth’ (Gen. 1:1). And He did not create them totally empty or without any intermediary bodies at all. For the earth was mixed with water, and each was pregnant with air and with the various species of animals and plants, while the heavens were pregnant with various lights and fires; and so with the heavens and the earth all things received their existence. Thus first of all God created the heavens and the earth as a kind of all-embracing material substance with the potentiality of giving birth to all things. In this way He rightly rebuts those who wrongly think that matter pre existed on its own as an autonomous entity.


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#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 11:56 AM

Dear all,

I have moved a recent series of posts made today, constituting long quotations of various articles on science and creation, etc., to the Creation and evolutionary theory, II thread. We're not going to be having a whole series of threads that deal with this question, with just slightly different flavours. This current thread should be used for the discussion of Genesis in its literal interpretations: not for discussions of why literal readings are better than those that allow for evolutionary / etc. aspects; nor should it be used simply for posting chains of 'proof texts' supporting one sort of reading. Let us move beyond this utterly superficial level, and use this thread to discuss Genesis itself, in its patristic reading as understood as 'literal' by those who wish to discuss it in this way.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 John M.

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 12:47 PM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'John M.' is identical to members 'Rick James York' and 'Rostislav'. The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

Dear all,

I have moved a recent series of posts made today, constituting long quotations of various articles on science and creation, etc., to the Creation and evolutionary theory, II thread. We're not going to be having a whole series of threads that deal with this question, with just slightly different flavours. This current thread should be used for the discussion of Genesis in its literal interpretations: not for discussions of why literal readings are better than those that allow for evolutionary / etc. aspects; nor should it be used simply for posting chains of 'proof texts' supporting one sort of reading. Let us move beyond this utterly superficial level, and use this thread to discuss Genesis itself, in its patristic reading as understood as 'literal' by those who wish to discuss it in this way.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

The posts were in the appropriate thread. Biblical and patristic quotes are not superficial, they are deeply spiritual and simply require the Holy Spirit to understand them. I guess my effort to prevent emotional arguments, insults and criticisms have been blocked for the sake of, increasing them?

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#9 Rick James York

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 04:08 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rick James York' is identical to members 'Rostislav' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

The link below accesses a course on how to read Genesis. when you finsih Chapter 1, there is a link to Chapter 2 at the bottom edge of the page.

http://www.creatio.o...s/chapter1.html

Chapter Two gives very detailed instruction about the six days of creation.

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#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 07:58 PM

I am confused as to why it is OK for Christ to speak only in parables, but not OK for Moses?

#11 Rick James York

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:00 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rick James York' is identical to members 'Rostislav' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

I am confused as to why it is OK for Christ to speak only in parables, but not OK for Moses?

Moses produced a written record of history.

Christ did not speak only in parables. He also spoke literally when it was needed (John 11:13,14).

But (Eze 20:49) (Mat 13:12-17) (Mat 13:18-23) is why Jesus spoke in parables. He fulfills prophecy and keeps outsiders - outside. Only those people who clearly understand these parables are being spoken to by Jesus. That is not to say that some will not understand later but at that point in time He spoke to those who understood the spiritual code.

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#12 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:05 AM

It's not just a written record of history. It is a work in theology. The theology of the ancient Israelites.

#13 Rick James York

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:16 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rick James York' is identical to members 'Rostislav' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

It's not just a written record of history. It is a work in theology. The theology of the ancient Israelites.

I anwered your question, which was not: "What are all the things that Genesis is?" or "In what ways can Genesis be interpreted?"

Originally Posted by Owen Jones Posted Image
I am confused as to why it is OK for Christ to speak only in parables, but not OK for Moses?
(Answer) Moses produced a written record of history.

Genesis is to be interpreted literally, spiritually and at times allegorically while still literally for the same passage in question. This is in words to that effect, quoted patristically somewhere in the last week of the "Creation and evolutionary theory II" thread I think.

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#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:50 AM

Moses produced a written record of history.


Actually Moses did not produce a written record of history per se. What Moses did was to write down a prophecy - its just that his prophecy was a revelation of the unknown past, not a prediction of the as yet unknown future. Look at the writings of the other prophets - they are not always literal, sometimes they are quite allegorical. There is no reason to assume the th prophecy of Moses was any different.

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#15 Rick James York

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:52 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rick James York' is identical to members 'Rostislav' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

Genesis is to be interpreted literally, spiritually and at times allegorically while still literally for the same passage in question. This is in words to that effect, quoted patristically somewhere in the last week of the "Creation and evolutionary theory II" thread I think.

Sorry, Owen. I could not find the literal/spiritual interpretation post in that thread after a quick scan but I found another entry (I believe there are at least two in the forum) in the "genesis truth & metaphor" thread at post 57, in the link. Here is a sample portion:

Regarding this last point, Rose helpfully explains and documents that the ‘Holy Fathers’ interpreted Genesis (and other Scriptures) both literally and symbolically. That is, they believed the text was literal history, but that it also had a mystical meaning related to the spiritual life of the individual believer or the whole church. It is for this reason that superficial readers of these ancient writings can find passages, which appear to support their non-literal, old-earth views. Among the details of Genesis 1–11 that the ‘Holy Fathers’ (even the most mystical ones) clearly took literally are these: length of days (24-hours), order of Creation events (e. g. earth and plants before the Sun), instantaneous creation of living things with maturity (e. g. Adam being created as an adult not an infant, plants with fruit on the branches, etc.),5 Adam created from the dust and Eve from Adam’s rib, Adam’s naming of the animals, a literal talking serpent in the literal Garden of Eden, a global Flood, the 900-year life-spans of the pre-Flood patriarchs, and the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 (no gaps, strictly chronological). They were not dogmatic about the precise age of the earth since the Greek text of the OT (Septuagint (LXX)—preferred by Orthodox theologians) and Hebrew (Masoretic) text disagreed (which didn‘t bother the ‘Fathers’),6 but they placed it approximately at 5500 BC . However, it is important to note, the ‘Holy Fathers’ were equally explicit that in the literal history of Genesis (as elsewhere in the Bible) the anthropomorphic language describing God was not literal (pp. 87, 198, 247, 277, 404).

Also in this thread (Genesis literally) at posts 2 & 3 there is comment on ther literal interpretation of Genesis. As you are aware, Genesis is believed to be written entirely in the syle of one writer, Moses, according to writing style experts.

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#16 Rick James York

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 09:58 AM

MODERATOR'S NOTICE: The following message has been posted by an account engaged in on-line identity fraud. The member 'Rick James York' is identical to members 'Rostislav' and 'John M.' The current post, made before discovery of this fact, is being retained in order to preserve the flow of threads; but readers should be aware of this case of multiple identity.

The link below accesses a course on how to read Genesis. when you finsih Chapter 1, there is a link to Chapter 2 at the bottom edge of the page.

http://www.creatio.o...s/chapter1.html

Chapter Two gives very detailed instruction about the six days of creation.

The link in post #9 does not seem to be working. This one links to the same site.
"Genesis, Creation and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision"

In +, James

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#17 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:50 PM

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”


Is this literal history? Does it matter whether it is or isn't? What does it mean? What is the writer trying to say?

#18 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 08:21 PM

Actually Moses did not produce a written record of history per se. What Moses did was to write down a prophecy - its just that his prophecy was a revelation of the unknown past, not a prediction of the as yet unknown future. Fr David Moser


This is a good point... if we look at the Book of Revelation, a prophecy of the future, there is little there that we would dare to interpret literally and Fathers who left commentaries on the Book of Revelations sought hidden/symbolic meaning in the images presented in the book. If we apply the same principle to the Book of Genesis (1-2) and view it through the eyes of the Fathers, we will see that all of them either interpreted it literally or did not deny literal interpretation.

What does this mean? What is the positive meaning of this pattern?

#19 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 09:18 PM

Is this literal history? Does it matter whether it is or isn't? What does it mean? What is the writer trying to say?


The story is as literal as are the figures partcipating in it - is this what you are getting at?

Does it matter whether the Lord and Apostles literally existed, or literally participated in the story?

What is the Holy Spirit trying to say? One meaning perhaps more pertinent to the thread would be that the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth can issue orders to His own creation... but again as before I am confused about the idea behind the contrast or dichotomy you are trying to set up; I fail to see any.

#20 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 April 2008 - 02:54 PM

The storm is the inner turmoil that we experience, especially once Christ falls asleep. Yet He reminds us that He is still with us, and calms us on our passage to the other shore -- which is a typology or allegorical representation for our glorification -- our passage into the next life.

I won't say that the event did not happen the way described. In fact, this would be the way I would expect God to reveal his true power and purposes to us, and in our daily lives isn't this how it works? Storms on boat rides happen all the time. Do they mean anything at all or not? I am reminded of the scene in Forrest Gump when he is on the shrimp boat in a storm with Lt. Dan (one of the lost tribes of Israel?) Up to that point, Lt. Dan is angry, resentful and cynical because he lost his legs in Vietnam. The storm is his baptism and after that he is a totally new, changed person. Did the author intend all of that when he wrote the book? Ask him. I don't know. But does that matter? Now, of course, Forrest Gump is a fictional character, but we are not therefore forced to say that Jesus and his disciples are fictional characters. Why would that logically follow? But Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan are typologies. They work, because we know them in us, or have seen them in other people, and, moreover, these are universal types and figures.

A little controversy, one might say, exists regarding the author of "The Way of the Pilgrim." The author portrays himself as a rustic. Obviously this is ridiculous. It is a highly literate account (simple but that is often the trademark of the highly literate, to convey complex, multi-layered reality simply, beautifully). But more importantly, how are you going to represent a life time of ascetic struggle, praying in your cell? You represent it by going on a physical journey. Whether that physical journey actually took place or not is, frankly irrelevant, because if you focus on that, you have entirely missed the point. You will think that, gee, the whole point of the book is that I have to go on a physical journey to Jerusalem. But the whole point of Christianity is that Jerusalem is no longer just a geographic spot on the map. Our true spiritual awareness depends entirely on making this shift.


One obviously has to avoid interpreting any Biblical passage in what we today might call a purely "existential" sense. I about flew out of my pew when my priest on Pascha used the term "deep existential significance." Not that the questions of existence are not of paramount concern. But it can also be a form of reductionism. And so, by the method of existentialist interpretation therefore, Moses never actually ascended Sinai, and never actually was confronted by God dramatically, but had some kind of aha! experience while meditating in his tent, and then gathered together some stone masons to collate what he already knew onto some stone tablets.

On the other hand, concrete physical representations are the classical/ancient way of representing inner spiritual experiences, and there is a problem in over literalizing them, because, just to pose one problem, it would seem that, frankly, that's not really how God works any more. Did God change?

By teaching us in parables, rather than in propositions, Christ opens our eyes to that which is already there and happening all around us. The Fathers use allegory and typology for the same reason. Not as proof texts, although there is that, but so that we can see that the Exodus of the Jews, 3,000 years ago now, is also our Exodus. And the storm on the boat is our storm that is raging, now that Jesus has reposed. Why did he have to go to sleep? Why isn't he here, awake, guiding the boat through the storm? Gee, all of a sudden, I have forgotten everything He taught me, and I am at sea, in a storm, lost -- terrified of dying!!!!!

Now, it seems to me that all of these kinds of factors are also in play in Genesis. Why wouldn't they be?




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