Genesis 1-3 and Literal Interpretation

William Horbury, “Old Testament Interpretation in the Writings of the Church Fathers,” Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. Martin Jan Mulder (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004) 768.

The importance of types and allegories in second and third-century OT exegesis did not overwhelm more literal interpretation…[L]iteral interpretation of the promises was popular. Gen 1-3 were likewise commonly taken literally, perhaps in rebuttal of gnostic views of the cosmogony as well as in accord with the hope for the last things.

In debates about Genesis 1-3 and evolution, many Christians like to assert that the church before the nineteenth century did not take the biblical account of creation literally. I think they base their argument on the existence of non-literal interpretation (i.e., allegory) of the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament as well as patristic and rabbinic writings. I’ve not read all the history of interpretation with reference to Genesis 1-3, but I think it’s wrong to claim that “the” church did not interpret Genesis 1-3 literally. Apparently, Horbury does too.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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