The Genesis Controversy?


We’ve all indulged in the reading or viewing of such popular franchises as The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, The Pirates of the Caribbean or other similar productions. These franchises are usually very immersive and make us feel at times as being part of their world. We indulge in these as a way to entertain ourselves but none of us would pretend that these fictional worlds are real, would we? I say this tongue in cheek of course but it’s not uncommon to see similar mistakes being made when it comes to the interpretation of the Bible.

Let’s start by asking this question: What is the Bible? According the Catholic Answers encyclopedia it is “a collection of writings which the Church of God has solemnly recognized as inspired. The name is derived from the Greek expression ta biblia, which means (the books)” (emphasis added). St-Jerome would even call it the “Divine Library”. Why is this important? Well, in a library, you would be expected to find all kinds of books from fiction to biographies to scientific manuals.

This is exactly how we need to approach the Bible. We need to be able to identify the nature of the 73 books inside the Bible before reading them because who in their right mind as ever read the works of Shakespeare as scientific text?

Let’s get back to my original thought by taking the book of Genesis as an example. We too often hear critics of the Christian faith abuse this book as being filled with unscientific nonsense and therefore using this to show that the Christian faith must be false or the Bible not inerrant. Some will use the young-earth creationist interpretation of the creation account that the earth was created around 6000 years ago in a 6 day span as being nonsense or Genesis’ text itself that there was light on the first day before the sun was created on the fourth day. (We also use days as an instrument to measure the earth’s rotation on itself, so without the sun, how can there be days?) At first glance, if we interpret the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook, then it would seem that those critics have a case. Is Genesis a scientific textbook though?

That is where a proper interpretation of the context needs to be done. Genesis was written and inspired to present theological truth to the people of God by slowly revealing God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Why don’t we address the issues I’ve presented above? I love the explanation Trent Horn provides for the seemingly odd creation account in his book Hard Sayings. He makes us imagine recounting to our friends a vacation we might have taken. We could recount the events in a chronological order from the beginning of the vacation on to the end, but that might be long and boring. What we would usually do is present it in a topical order, meaning we would start by recounting all the fun extraordinary things that happened to us on that vacation even if they did not happen first. [1] This is what the author of Genesis is doing in recounting the events of creation. Church Fathers such as Origen have understood this distinction also.

The Church has never had a problem with the developing of scientific theories relating to the creation of the world vs the creation account in Genesis because the author of Genesis never claims to write scientific truths about the world. Without having an official teaching on this, the Church embraces new scientific discoveries as it helps us discover the wonder and glory of God (CCC 283)

[1] Horn, Trent, Hard Sayings (Catholic Answers Press), 44-45