A History of the Christian Interpretation of the Days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3: From the Apostolic Fathers to Essays and Reviews (1860)

Andrew Brown (2010). A History of the Christian Interpretation of the Days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3: From the Apostolic Fathers to Essays and Reviews (1860) PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Andrew Brown
Thesis Title A History of the Christian Interpretation of the Days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3: From the Apostolic Fathers to Essays and Reviews (1860)
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Philip Almond
Peter Harrison
Total pages 331
Total colour pages -
Total black and white pages 331
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines the history of Christian interpretation of the seven-day framework of Genesis 1:1-2:3 in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from the post-apostolic era to the debates surrounding Essays and Reviews (1860). I first establish a context for the discussion using a consideration of literary and textual issues that relate to this text. In subsequent chapters I survey, patristic, medieval, Renaissance/Reformation, eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and finally early to mid-nineteenth-century interpretations of the days of creation. I make three arguments: 1) concerning ‘depth’ in this history of interpretation, that readings of Genesis 1:1-2:3 belonging to the modern era often have roots much deeper than first realized, reaching far back into Renaissance, medieval or even patristic eras, via the commonly available channels of literal interpretation, figurative readings including spiritual allegory, Platonic metaphysics and mystical approaches, and the prophetic world-week periodic scheme. Thus the ‘day-age’ scheme reveals its roots in Augustine’s figurative creation days, the world-week historical scheme, Renaissance Platonism, and Newtonian science, while the ‘literal’ alternative of the gap theory combines ancient literal interpretation with a chaos idea derived from Greco-Roman origins myths interpreted through a geological lens. 2) My second argument concerns ‘difference’: that despite such deep-rootedness, treatments of Genesis 1:1-2:3 in these earlier eras are rather alien and little-understood in many ways, due to their very different philosophical and theological contexts. The hasty appropriation of ancient precedents as authoritative support for modern interpretations frequently overlooks or oversimplifies this ‘difference’. 3) Genesis 1:1-2:3 experienced a remarkable ‘trajectory’ in its intellectual and social influence as an authoritative text, steadily gaining influence through the formative early centuries of the Christian church’s existence and exercising a cognitive dominance regarding origins and ontology, regarding all categories of created things, that peaked in the Reformation and Renaissance. Yet with the growing confidence in reason of the early Modern era, the revival of alternate classical philosophies, the renewed reception of the mythic literature of ancient nations, and the input of new data from telescope and microscope, from sea voyage and continental volcano, that cognitive dominance slowly shook and crumbled. By the time of the very qualified reception of Genesis 1:1-2:3 represented by Goodwin’s essay in Essays and Reviews (1860), this once-dominant biblical text was well on the way to its present intellectual marginalization. Yet it still bears its own unique stamp and terse grandeur, and still forms the subject of debates that betray an ideological importance disproportionate to its length. This study permits an insight into the mighty career of a biblical text of seminal importance.
Keyword Bible
Biblical interpretation
History& Philosophy of Science
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Created: Mon, 27 Jun 2011, 16:19:31 EST by Mr Andrew Brown on behalf of Library - Information Access Service