I. The Earth Was Created in Six Days
Gen. 1:3,6,9,14,20,24,26 God creates by saying “let there be...and there was...” God’s Word brings into existence that which He desires. If the creation story in Genesis is interpreted literally, then evolution (that matter, not God, formed things) is a false theory. Should we interpret the book of Genesis literally? The Catholic Church, in adopting the rule of St. Augustine, teaches “not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate.” Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, No. 15, 1893. This was affirmed by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, No. 36, 1950. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 116, also says: The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal." This is why the Church interprets literally, for example, Matt. 16:18 (Peter is the rock); Matt. 19:9 (remarriage after divorce is adultery); Matt. 26:26-28 (“this is my body”); John 6:51-58 (“eat my flesh”; “drink my blood”); John 3:5 (born of water means baptism); John 20:23 (“whose sins you forgive are forgiven”); 1 Peter 3:21 (“baptism saves you”); and James 5:14-15 (“anoint the sick with oil to save them and forgive their sins”). There does not seem to be a compelling reason to depart from the literal and obvious sense of the following Scriptures which teach that God created all things out of nothing in six literal days. Certainly, a literal interpretation is not untenable, nor does necessity require an alternative interpretation:
Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31 “and there was evening and there was morning, (one) day.” When the Hebrew word for day (yom) is used with an ordinal number as it is in these verses, it always means a literal twenty-four hour period of time. It never means an indefinite period. The “evening and morning” phrase in connection with “day” proves that this is a twenty-four hour period of time. See, for example, Ex. 16:8,12,13; 27:21; 29:39; Lev. 24:3; Num. 9:21; and Dan. 8:26 where “evening and morning” always refers to a twenty-four hour period. Num. 20:15 “we dwelt in Egypt a long time.” Here, the plural of “yom” (Hebrew, yomin) is used to describe “a long time.” The phrase uses “yommin rabbim” which means “many days.” This is because that is what the verse literally intends to say. In Genesis 1, the singular “yom” is used with an ordinal number to signify a single day. Also, note that “yomin” is used over 700 times in the Bible, and it always refers to literal days. Isa. 4:2 “in that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.” Here, “yom” means an indefinite period. But this is because it describes the Lord, whose glory lasts indefinitely. Also, “yom” is not followed by an ordinal number like it is in the Genesis creation account, nor is it followed by “evening and morning” which refers to a single day.
Gen. 2:7 “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground...” Evolution says that man came from an ape, while Genesis says that man came from the ground. This verse also shows that the Lord God “formed man.” There is nothing about secondary causes forming man, even though evolution claims that secondary causes (apes, living matter) formed man and other living things over millions of years.
Gen. 2:19 “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and bird of the air...” This verse teaches us that God created the animals just like He created humans. There is nothing to suggest a process of natural transformation. God creates directly.
Gen. 1:20 “And God said, let the waters swarm with the living soul of swarmers.” This is another verse which demonstrates that God, not the water, is doing the creating. The Hebrew for “swarm” (sharets) is not in the causative as it is used in other places in Scripture (e.g., Ex. 8:3; Psalm 105:30).
Gen. 1:24 “let the earth bring forth living creatures...” Evolutionists argue that this verse proves living creatures came from the earth, not from God. But nothing in the texts suggests that God is not the one doing the creating. When we view references to “earth” in the Genesis account, the phrase “earth bring forth” necessarily refers to “where” the animals were created, not “how” they were created. There is no text in Genesis (or elsewhere in Scripture) that suggests the usage of “earth” is in a causative sense.
Psalm 104:30 “When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created...” This verse tells us that God’s Spirit creates instantaneously. Scripture never says that matter creates other matter, or that creation occurs over millions of years.
Psalm 104:2-10,14,19-20,24,24 these are more verses which show that God directly creates, without using secondary causes. Job 38:4-13; 40:15; 41:31 these are additional verses which reveal how God creates the things of creation. There is no indication of any secondary causes.
2 Macc. 7:28 “I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.” This is a very explicit text from the inspired book of Maccabees which expressly rejects the theory of evolution.
Heb. 11:3 “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” God reveals that He has created the universe “ex nihilo” (out of nothing).
III. Inconsistencies Between Genesis 1 and 2?
Many people try to undermine the inerrancy of Genesis 1 and 2 by pointing out alleged “inconsistencies” between the two creation accounts. Of course, if Scripture is not inerrant, then the secularists can advance any theory they wish about creation and the age of the earth. Following are the most common “inconsistencies” raised by the secularists:
1. Plants created before or after Adam?
Gen. 1:11-12 God says “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed.” In this account, God made plants before He made man.
Gen. 2:5 it says “when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and not every herb of the field had yet sprung up,…God formed man of dust from the ground.” In this account, it appears that God made plants after He made man. How do we reconcile the two accounts? Well, none of the early Church Fathers had a problem harmonizing the texts, so 21st century Westerners should have no problem doing so.
In Gen. 1:11-12, it says that God made “herb” and the “tree producing fruit.” This refers to two kinds of vegetation. Gen. 1:11-12 also says that this vegetation produced “seed” (in Hebrew, dashah). These types of vegetation evidently served as food for Adam and Eve.
In Gen. 2:5, it refers to the “shrub,” which is a third type of vegetation, to be distinguished from that which is described in Genesis 1. This is further demonstrated by the fact that the text says that the “shrub” of Genesis 2 had not yet produced seed (in Hebrew, tsemach). This is different from the dashah produced by the vegetation in Genesis 1.
Finally, Gen. 2:5 says “not every herb of the field had yet sprung up.” This indicates that some vegetation did already spring up, which is the different kind of vegetation described in Gen. 1:11-12 (the fruit-bearing vegetation versus the vegetation that had yet to bear fruit). Thus, Gen. 1:11-12 describes vegetation which immediately produced fruit, and Gen. 2:5 refers to vegetation whose fruit would bud in the next generation. Is this an inconsistency? No.
2. Animals created before or after Adam?
Gen. 1:24-25 it says that God made “living creatures” before He made man.
Gen. 2:7 it says that God made man, and then in Gen. 2:19 it says that God made the “living creatures.” It thus appears that God made the animals after He made man, whereas in Genesis 1 it says that God made the animals before He made man. Is this an inconsistency? No.
In Gen. 2:19, it says “out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field…and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.” The Hebrew for “formed” is yatsar, which is in the past tense (not the present tense). This means that God “had already formed” the beasts and birds before He made man, which is consistent with Gen. 1:24-25.
This is bolstered by the fact that Gen. 2:18 says God was trying to find a “suitable helper” for Adam. Why? Since God already knew that the animals would not serve that role, it seems obvious that He would not have created them after Adam, only to discover what He already knew (that the animals would not be suitable helpers for Adam). The animals were already created. God “had formed” them before Adam. This alternative account poignantly sets the stage for God’s creation of Eve, the true suitable helper for Adam, with whom he would “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
3. Wasn’t Eve was created years after Adam?
If liberal exegetes can prove that Eve was created years after Adam, this supports their claim that the six-day creation account cannot be interpreted literally. To that end, the liberals point out that “the Lord God planted a garden in Eden…and made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:8-9). The liberals argue that since it takes years for trees to grow, Eve could not have been created on the sixth day. Such an interpretation limits God’s ability to create trees using natural processes, which is not how God was creating during the miraculous creation week.
The more plausible (and correct) interpretation is that God created the trees ex nihilo, just as he created the heavens and the earth. The fact that Eve was later created ex nihilo from the side of Adam (as Pope Leo XIII affirms in Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, 1880) demonstrates that God’s miraculous ex nihilo activity is occurring right to the very end of the creation week.
Similarly, the liberal exegetes point out that, after God created the trees in Gen. 2:8-9, He made a river flow out of Eden, which divided into four other rivers (Gen. 2:10). Again, they argue the creation of four rivers out of the river in Eden would have taken many years prior to the creation of Eve. Once again, such an argument limits God’s creating activity to natural processes. God could have created the rivers ex nihilo, and Gen 2:10 would only be describing how the newly created river of Eden joined them.
Alternatively, since Gen. 2:10 does not say that the four rivers were created at that time, the rivers could have been separated with the rest of the waters on day three (see Gen. 1:9-13). The days of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 correspond as follows:
Day One: 1:1-5; 2:4-7
Day Two: 1:6-8; 2:8
Day Three: 1:9-13; 2:9-14
Day Four: 1:14-19; 2:15
Day Five: 1:20-23; 2:16-17
Day Six: 1:24-31; 2:18-24
Tradition / Church Fathers
The early Church Fathers were unanimous in their belief that God directly created all things out of nothing (not by an evolutionary process of secondary causes). None of the Fathers’ views ever supported the possibility of an evolutionary process in creation. The Fathers also agreed that God created the universe in six literal days. St. Augustine introduced an alternative theory which proposed that God may have created the entire world in an instant (not in six days, and certainly not in millions of years). However, Augustine also said that a six-day creation was possible as well. Are the Fathers’ views important to us as we interpret the Scriptures? The answer is: Yes, very important.
In 1564, the Council of Trent (Session IV, April 8), one of the Church’s most important councils and to which the Catholic conscience is bound forever, infallibly taught that no one could “in matters of faith and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine...interpret the sacred Scriptures...even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” This infallible teaching was restated by the First Vatican Council in 1870.
Hence, the Church definitively teaches that the faithful cannot depart from the interpretation of the Fathers when they are unanimous in their interpretation of Scripture on a point of Revelation. This also means that we must defer to the unanimous opinion of the Fathers in all matters of Revelation, not just religious matters.
Pope Benedict XV stated that “by these precepts and limits [set by the Fathers of the Church]...wish, indeed, that inspiration itself pertain to all ideas, rather even to the individual words of the Bible...” Spiritus Paraclitus, September 15, 1920. The pope condemned contrary opinions by stating “For their belief is that that only which concerns religion is intended and is taught by God in the Scriptures; but that the rest, which pertains to the profane disciplines...is left to the feebleness of the writer...But how rashly, how falsely this is affirmed.” Ibid.
Why are the Fathers important? The Church teaches that the Fathers are important because they received the rule of interpretations from the successors to the apostles and the apostles themselves. The Fathers “endeavored to acquire the understanding of the Holy Scriptures not by their own lights and ideas, but from the writings and authority of the ancients, who in their turn, as we know, received the rule of interpretation in direct line from the Apostles.” Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, No. 14, 1893.
What did the Fathers teach regarding creation?
Irenaeus, (140-202): "For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded... in six days created things were completed..” (Against Heresies 5, 28, 3).
Clement of Alexandria (150-216): "From Adam to the deluge are comprised two thousand one hundred and forty-eight years, four days" (ANF, Vol. 2, p. 332).
Clement of Alexandria (150-216): "...but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days' formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water. The water was the beginning of the world..." (Catechetical Lectures, 3, 5).
Hippolytus (160-235): "But it was right to speak not of the ‘first day,' but of ‘one day,' in order that by saying ‘one,' he might show that it returns on its orbit, and, while it remains one, makes up the week...On the first day God made what He made out of nothing." (Genesis 1:5, 1:6; ANF, vol. 5, p. 163).
Hippolytus (160-235): "When, therefore, Moses has spoken of ‘the six days in which God made heaven and earth'...Simon, in a manner already specified, giving these and other passages of Scripture a different application from the one intended by the holy writers, defies himself.” Refutation of All Heresies, Book VI, Ch IX).
Theophilus (c. 185): "Of this six days' work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts...on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days' work above narrated" (Autolycus 2,12).
Theophilus (c. 185): “God...made the existent out of the non-existent.” (Autolycus 2,4).
Theophilus (c. 185): “On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth came from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.” Theophilus, 2.15.
Theophilus (c. 185): “...the world is created and is providentially governed by the God who made everything. And the whole period of time and the years can be demonstrated to those who wish to learn the truth...The total number of years from the creation of the world is 5,695.” Theophilus, 3.25, 28.
Theophilus (c. 185): “If some period has escaped our notice, says 50 and 100 or even 200 years, at any rate it is not myriads, or thousands or years as it was for Plato...and the rest of those who wrote falsehoods. It may be that we do not know the exact total of all the years simply because the additional months and days are not recorded in the sacred books.” Theophilus, 3.29.
Origen (c. 200): “the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that.” Origen, Against Celsus, 1.19.
Lactantius (250-317): "God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day...For there are seven days, by the revolutions of which in order the circles of years are made up...Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years...For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows, who says, ‘In Thy sight, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day." ..And as God labored during those six days in creating such great works, so His religion and truth must labor during these six thousand years... (Institutes 7,14).
Victorinus (c. 280): "God produced the entire mass for the adornment of his majesty in six days. On the seventh day, he consecrated it with a blessing" (On the Creation of the World).
Ephrem the Syrian (306-373): "‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,' that is, the substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth. So let no one think that there is anything allegorical in the works of the six days. No one can rightly say that the things that pertain to these days were symbolic." (Commentary on Genesis,1:1, FC 91:74)
Methodius (c. 311): “For you seem to me, O Theophila, to have discussed those words of the Scripture amply and clearly, and to have set them forth as they are without mistake. For it is a dangerous thing wholly to despise the literal meaning, as has been said, and especially of Genesis, where the unchangeable decrees of God for the constitution of the universe are set forth, in agreement with which, even until now, the world is perfectly ordered, most beautifully in accordance with a perfect rule, until the Lawgiver Himself having re-arranged it, wishing to order it anew, shall break up the first laws of nature by a fresh disposition. But, since it is not fitting to leave the demonstration of the argument unexamined and, so to speak, half-lame come let us, as it were completing our pair, bring forth the analogical sense, looking more deeply into the Scripture; for Paul is not to be despised when he passed over the literal meaning, and showed that the word extended to Christ and the Church.” (Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse III, Ch 2).
Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386): "In six days God made the world...The sun, however resplendent with bright beams, yet was made to give light to man, yea, all living creatures were formed to serve us: herbs and trees were created for our enjoyment...The sun was formed by a mere command, but man by God's hands" (Catechetical Lectures 12, 5).
Epiphanius (315-403): "Adam, who was fashioned from the earth on the sixth day and received breath, became a living being (for he was not, as some suppose, begun on the fifth day, and completed on the sixth; those who say have the wrong idea), and was simple and innocent, without any other name." (Panarion 1:1, translated by Phillip R. Amidon).
Basil (329-379): “’And there was evening and morning, one day.’ Why did he say ‘one’ and not ‘first?’ He said ‘one’ because he was defining the measure of day and night.., since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day.” (Hexameron 2, 8).
Basil (329-379): "Thus were created the evening and the morning. Scripture means the space of a day and a night...If it therefore says ‘one day,' it is from a wish to determine the measure of day and night, and to combine the time that they contain. Now twenty-four hours fills up the space of one day we mean of a day and of a night" (Hexameron 2, 8). Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, called Basil’s interpretation of Genesis 1 an “overall great commentary (PG 18, 705-707).
Gregory of Nyssa (335-394): "Before I begin, let me testify that there is nothing contradictory in what the saintly Basil wrote about the creation of the world since no further explanation is needed. They should suffice and alone take second place to the divinely inspired Testament. Let anyone who hearkens to our attempts through a leisurely reading be not dismayed if they agree with our words. We do not propose a dogma which gives occasion for calumny; rather, we wish to express only our own insights so that what we offer does not detract from the following instruction. Thus let no one demand from me questions which seem to fall in line with common opinion, either from holy Scripture or explained by our teacher. My task is not to fathom those matters before us which appear contradictory; rather, permit me to employ my own resources to understand the text's objective. With God's help we can fathom what the text means which follows a certain defined order regarding creation. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' [Gen 1.1], and the rest which pertains to the cosmogenesis which the six days encompass." (Hexaemeron, PG 44:68-69).
Ambrose (340-397): "But Scripture established a law of twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent." (Hexameron 1:37, FC 42:42).
Ambrose (340-397): "In the beginning of time, therefore God created heaven and earth. Time proceeds from this world, not before the world. And the day is a division of time, not its beginning." (Hexameron 1:20, FC 42:19).
Ambrose (340-397): "But now we seem to have reached the end of our discourse, since the 6th day is completed and the sum total of the work has been concluded." (Hexameron 6:75, FC 42:282).
Chrysostom (344-407): "Acknowledging that God could have created the world ‘in a single day, nay in a single moment,' he chose ‘a sort of succession and established things by parts'...so that, accurately interpreted by that blessed prophet Moses, we do not fall in with those who are guided by human reasonings" (PG, Homily 3, col 35).
Victorinus (c. 355-361): "The Creation of the World: In the beginning God made the light, and divided it in the exact measure of twelve hours by day and by night, for this reason, doubtless, that day might bring over the night as an occasion of rest for men's labours; that, again, day might overcome, and thus that labour might be refreshed with this alternate change of rest, and that repose again might be tempered by the exercise of day. "On the fourth day He made two lights in the heaven, the greater and the lesser, that the one might rule over the day, the other over the night... (cf. (NPNF1, vol. 7, pp. 341-343)."
Augustine (354-430): “Some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been...And when they are asked, how…the reply that most, if not all lands, were so desolated at intervals by fire and flood, that men were greatly reduced in numbers, and...thus there was at intervals a new beginning made…But they say what they think, not what they know. They are deceived…by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed.” Augustine, The City of God, 12.10.
In affirming the Church Fathers and the Tradition of the Church, the Magisterium has infallibly taught that God created all things, material and spiritual, out of nothing. Here is a very brief chronology of the Church’s teaching on the creation of the universe:
561 Pope Pelagius I writes a letter to King Childebert I in which he states: “For I confess that...Adam and his wife, were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other from the rib of man.” The early Church always affirmed that man was formed from the earth, and not from an ape.
1215 Lateran Council IV “God created both orders out of nothing from the beginning of time, the spiritual and corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly.” The Lateran Council infallibly proclaims that God created the spiritual (angels) and corporeal (humans, animals, plants, heavenly bodies) “out of nothing” (ex nihilo).
1860 Council of Cologne “Our first parents were formed immediately by God. Therefore, we declare that…those...who…assert...man emerged from spontaneous continuous change of imperfect nature to the more perfect, is clearly opposed to Sacred Scripture and to the Faith.” The Church again affirms that man is not the product of an evolutionary process. Man was formed “immediately.”
1870 Vatican Council I issues an infallible dogmatic statement with an accompanying anathema: “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing, let him be anathema.” Once again, the Church infallibly proclaims that “the world and all things” in it are the product of an ex nihilo creation. In addition, the Church, for the first time, adds the phrase “as regards their whole substance.” This phrase essentially prevents anyone from advancing the theory of evolution (that is, arguing that God made some parts, but evolution contributed to the other parts). Moreover, the Church affirms Lateran Council IV that both the “spiritual and material” were made out of nothing. Spiritual refers to the creation of angels, and no one has argued that angels were created by an evolutionary process. There is never any distinction between how God created the angels (instantaneously, out of nothing) and how God created humans (instantaneously, out of nothing).
1880 Pope Leo XIII writes his encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae in which he states: “We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.” Pope Leo’s interpretation of Genesis suggests a literal six day creation. This is because he says Eve was “miraculously” created. Since miracles happen instantaneously, Pope Leo is saying Eve was created instantaneously, on the sixth day. It is thus logical to assume Pope Leo believed Adam was also created instantaneously, like Eve, on the sixth day. There is no methodological distinction between Adam and Eve, and nothing to suggest that their creation was from an evolutionary process that took millions of years. Pope Leo’s encyclical is in line with the infallible teachings of Lateran Council IV, Vatican Council I, and the early Church Fathers. Moreover, Pope Leo XIII issued this teaching only about 20 years after Darwin’s theory of evolution came on the scene.
1950 On August 12, Pope Pius XII issues the encyclical Humani Generis which addressed false opinions that were threatening to undermine Catholic doctrine. The pope, in echoing St. Augustine and Providentissimus Deus, declared that the modern exegete’s desire to depart from a literal interpretation of Scripture in favor of a non-literal interpretation was foreign to Catholic teaching: “Further, according to their fictitious opinions, the literal sense of Holy Scripture and its explanation, carefully worked out under the Church's vigilance by so many great exegetes, should yield now to a new exegesis, which they are pleased to call symbolic or spiritual” (no. 23). “Everyone sees how foreign all this is to the principles and norms of interpretation rightly fixed by our predecessors of happy memory, Leo XIII in his Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, and Benedict XV in the Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus, as also by Ourselves in the Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu” (no. 24). The pope also broached the theory of evolution with caution by stating that the Church “does not forbid research and discussions...with regard to evolution,” but warns that “divine revelation demands the greatest moderation and caution” when so discussing, and says we must ultimately “submit to the judgment of the Church” (no. 36). The pope further condemned “polygenism,” the heretical belief that the human race is not the product of a single set of parents (Adam and Eve), but multiple parents, as evolutionary theory maintains.