Young-Earth creationists commonly assert that until the 1700s, the almost universal interpretation of Genesis 1 was six consecutive literal 24-hour days about 6000 years ago. They say that the only reason that Christian scholars since then have suggested alternative interpretations was because they have sought to impose science on Scripture.
Justin Taylor, on his Between Two Worlds blog, summarizes an article that appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal in 1999. Taylor’s blog post is How Did the Church Interpret the Days of Creation before Darwin? and the WTJ article is “In the Space of Six Days”: The Days of Creation from Origen to the Westminster Assembly.
My summary of the main points of Taylor’s summary is
- There were a variety of interpretations of the text down through the centuries before modern geology.
- Augustine, Calvin, and Jerome all warned about the difficulty of interpreting Genesis 1.
- Interpreters throughout Church history have taken what they knew of science and philosophy into account when they interpreted Genesis 1.
- The exact meaning of the days of creation was not nearly as important to sixteenth century Reformed scholars as the fact that creation was an ex nihilo (i.e. creation from nothing) work of the Triune God.
- The Puritans at the time of the Westminster Assembly made no serious attempt to dig deeply into Genesis 1.
In other words, the standard YEC interpretation of Genesis 1 has not always been and should not now be considered as a standard of Christian orthodoxy.
Grace and Peace
HT: Glenn (Be Bold, Be Gentle)