Augustine On The Creation Days -- By: Louis Lavallee

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:4 (Dec 1989)
Article: Augustine On The Creation Days
Author: Louis Lavallee

Augustine On The Creation Days

Louis Lavallee*

Augustine, the famous bishop of Hippo, is venerated by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. Both quote him to support a nonliteral interpretation of the six creation days.

A Catholic catechism, referencing Augustine, reads:

As early Christian writers noted, the six “days” of creation could hardly have been solar days such as we now know, for according to the account in Genesis the sun was not made until the fourth “day.”1

On the Protestant side James Montgomery Boice writes:

On the surface it would be natural to take the word “day” in Genesis I as referring to a literal twenty-four-hour day. But even this is not without question, for the account clearly indicates that God did not establish the sun and other heavenly bodies for the regulating of “seasons and days and years” until day four. Augustine noted this 1500 years ago.2

R. Laird Harris states: “As far back as Augustine, it was considered that these could be epochal days.”3

Yet Davis Young has shown that “in general, the church fathers regarded the days of creation as ordinary days corresponding to our existing sun-measured, solar days.”4 Why did Augustine reach a different conclusion? Was it only because the sun was made on the fourth day? How long were the days’ in his view? Did Augustine find exegetical reasons to warrant harmonizing Scripture with long geologic ages and/or evolutionary development? In this paper we will examine Augustine’s ideas and the reasons why he held them.

After his conversion Augustine humbly submitted to the authority of Scripture. Yet much of his argument about the creation days is unacceptable to evangelicals. He exegeted Genesis from the OL, a translation of a translation (the LXX). He relied again and again on the Apocrypha as Scripture. And he harmonized his interpretation with now outdated scientific theories, the ideas of spontaneous generation and geocentricism.

* Louis Lavallee is ruling elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

I. Augustine’s Interest In Creation

Augustine was interested in the Genesis creation account in part because he had been a Manichee. The Manichees, who rejected the OT, were dualists. They believed that the world arose from a mythical struggle between light and dark powers. In his Confessions Augustine tell...

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