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Hexaemeral Commentaries

Genesis 1, Philo's *De opificio mundi*, John 1, Origen's Homily 1 on Genesis, Basil's 1st Homily on the Hexaemeron, and Augustine's *De Genesi ad litteram Book 1

Daniel McClain

on 16 January 2015

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Transcript of Hexaemeral Commentaries

God the Geometer
Gen 1: The Days of Creation
Day 1 - Light, the earth was a formless void
Day 2 - the firmament between the waters
Day 3 - dry land and vegetation
Day 4 - the Luminaries
Day 5 - fish and fowl
Day 6 - land animals, man and woman
Day 7 - blessing and rest
Gen 2: an alternative account?
1. Man, "when no plant was yet in the earth..."
2. God planted a garden in Eden
3. God planted... trees for food,
and 2 other trees
4. Commandment not to eat tree of knowledge
5. God makes man a partner
a. first animals
b. then Eve
6. Institution of marital union
What is a "formless void"?
"in the beginning..."
What is a "day"?
What does the difference in the two accounts tell us?
Philo's De opificio mundi
Jewish Alexandrian Philosopher
Lived c. 20BCE-30CE
Wrote a series of commentaries on Mosaic Law (Torah)
Mosaic Creation
Moses begins his Law with Creation. Why?
Harmony between cosmos and law §3
Providence: the relationship between God and cosmos §12
(On the Making of the World")
Creation of the
Intelligible World
Days of Creation
Not literal "days"
Temporal language used *metaphorically*
Communicates the "order"
that God imbued
in the World
Gen. 1:1-5
(1) In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, (2) the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters. (3) Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. (4) And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Who is God?
Homilies on
the Hexaemeron
What does
'create' entail?

What are heaven
and earth in 1:1?

God understood in advance that a beautiful copy would not come into existence apart from a beautiful model... Therefore when he decided to construct this visible cosmos, he first marked out the intelligible cosmos, so that he could use it as an incorporeal and most god-like paradigm... (ch4 §16)
a plan, model,
incorporeal ideas
The Father=Maker
"With no one to assist him...."
"you might say that the intelligible cosmos is nothing else than the Logos of God as he is actually engaged in making the cosmos. For the intelligible city is nothing else the reasoning of the architect..."
"This is the doctrine of Moses, not my own."
"Even if the maker proceeded to make all things simultaneously, it is nonetheless true that what comes into a beautiful existence did possess order, for there is no beauty in disorder. Order is a sequence and series of things that precede and follow, if not in completed products, then certain in the conceptions of the builders" (ch5, §28)
The first light is incorporeal, an intelligible model of the Sun and other light bearing entities, and is in the image of the Logos.
God separates Darkness and Light
to prevent the conflict of their
Called it *heaven
Separates water from dry land
Names the dry land *earth, names the water *sea.
Adorns the earth
Orders the earth to 'generate' 'similar kinds'
SPERMATIC substances
'the indististict and invisible patterns of the entire organism'
The earth is now finished
Significance of '4' (seasons, 1+2+3+4=10, musical ratios, etc....
Luminaries, heavenly bodies
Signs for times, seasons, physical day and night
Astronomy ~ Astrology
Animal World
Degrees of soul
Fish-aquatic soul, lease sensitive, animates their bodies
Birds & beasts-more sensitive
The Human Soul is the most sensitive of all souls.
It possesses a "soul of the soul", the intellect.
The human being is the crowning achievement of creation
Creation begins like a seed and results "in something precious"
After completion according to the perfect #6, God calls the seventh 'holy'
A festival day for the entire universe
7 represents what is perfect and unchanging, completion
The Sabbath - a day of reflection and moral purification
John 1:1-18
"in the beginning" again
The word=logos
"all things came into being through him" (1:3)
"...in him is life..." (4)
"life was the light" (5)
Jesus is the light/life
"He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him" (1:10)
"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son" (1:14)
"The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (1:17)
NT Cosmology
Hellenistic Judaism understood salvation in cosmological terms
Hellenistic/Judaic Cosmology shaped NT convictions about Eschatology and Christology
"a way of imagining the world which gives to support to a certain values system."
Homily on Genesis 1
The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, French, c. 1250
Codex Vindobonensis 2554, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
What is the beginning of all things except our Lord and 'Savior of all,' Jesus Christ 'the firstborn of every creature'?
"In the beginning (en arche) was the Word (ho logos) and the Word was with God (ho theon) and the Word was God... all things came into being through him... What has come into being in him was life..."
John 1:1-4a
in the beginning (en arche)
Not temporal
Denotes *Jesus Christ* as beginning, of....
Darkness upon the the Abyss - the place where the devil and rogue angels have been cast.
Light and Darkness
Light - first creation, dissolves darkness
The distinction of light and darkness is "one day", not a first day because there is no time yet.
Not heaven (has already been created), but the corporeal 'heaven'. Must be solid if it divides water.
Spiritual interpretation: first heaven is "mind", second heaven/firmament is "outer man" which looks at things corporeally.
**Heavenly man vs. corporeal man**
Let each of you, therefore, be zealous to become a divider of that water which is above and that which is below. The purpose, of course, is that, attaining an understanding and participation in that spiritual water which is above the firmament one may draw forth 'from within himself rivers of living water springing up in life eternal,' removed...from that water... below, that is, the water of the abyss in which darkness...
The Earth
Dry land becomes earth
bears fruit
Spiritual Interpretation: bearing fruit = zeal and diligence in seeking the spiritual
Vegetation & Seeds symbolize a fertile and productive spiritual nature, resistance to demons (waters, rocks, etc...).
"If someone progresses such that he is already made a 'child of the day,' so that he 'walks honestly in the day,' a 'a child of the day and a child of light,' this person is illuminated by Christ himself just as the day is illuminated by the sun."
Uses John 1 to interpret Gen 1
Spiritual Interpretation
Cosmology informs spirituality
Cosmology as metaphor for relationship to Christ
The Sun and Moon
Metaphors for Christ and the Church
"From his light the Church itself also having been enlightened is made 'the light of the world' enlightening those 'who are in darkness'..."
Animals are figures for good and evil in the spiritual state (see p. 57-9, §8-10)
Not questioning the literality of the event
"But it is not unprofitable to relate these words to those which we explained above in a spiritual sense" §11.
The making of man
Dominion over all of creation=spiritual dominion
Image is 'inner man,' 'incorporeal'
Made in God's image, from God, not from earth
Made in the likeness of the image, who is Christ
Late Antique & Early Christian Cosmology
"The basic problem of Greek philosophy is that of the *arche*" (Van Winden, 1)
Creatio ex nihilo
Relationship between Creation and Spirituality
mediated by certain ways of reading:
Typology - Biblically shaped patterns
God is not a craftsman (as in Timaeus)
Chaos is *not a 'pre-existing' state of being, but *non-being
All life/being comes from God
Allegory - the truth of the matter
Moral - how one should act
Anagogy - what one should hope
Basil the Great
or Basil of Caesarea
"In the beginning...."
Not simultaneous, but a reference to origin = "in God"
pertaining to God
"what ear is worthy..."
Moral and Spiritual Discipline
Example of ascetic purity
Recipient of divine wisdom
"For I speak to him mouth to mouth;
and plainly, and not in riddles."
"In the beginning..."
A theological matter
the question of the rational cause
requires an account of God.
Pagan accounts of the beginning are weak because they have "unsubstantial beginnings..."
"truly it is a spider's web that these writers weave, who suggest such weak and unsubstantial beginnings of the heaven and the earth and the sea."
What's at risk in the pagan account?
*Lack of guide, rule
*Loss of providence
Genesis 1 provides:
Orderly arrangement -
this entails a *beginning
creation by a Creator who exceeds in his power his creation (providence is safeguarded)
Confusion of details about the world as details about its origin ("the comprehension of the truth")
Did anything exist before this world?
"There was a certain condition older than the birth of the world..." (p. 9)
Something attainable by contemplation
"A certain condition..." "beyond time, without beginning and end..."
The Eternal Art in which all works are perfected
Col. 1.16
A School for souls
The physical world as training, a school for souls (9)
Time requires past, present, future; growth, decay, no stability. (9)
Usefulness of world is in guiding minds from contemplation of visible to contemplation of invisible (11)
The foundation of time is like the foundation of art, morality, action. (10)
Metaphors of time
The beginning is not the thing itself. (11)
"In the case of the creative skills, even though the action ceases, the work remains...." (12)
*On the Literal
Interpretation of Genesis*
Completed 415 AD
treats Genesis 1 in books 1-4
A literal interpretation: interested in what 'really' happened.
Book 1 - the light, creation as a divine act
The arrangement of Gen. Lit.
God does not create in time
God is the source of the world
God is not bound by time
God calls creation in being from non-being... as an expression of love
"There are... two purposes in God's love of His creation: first, that it might exist, and secondly, that it may abide."
3 Senses of 'beginning'
beginning of time
beginning of creation
John 1
in the beginning who is the Word
"The Word is the source of whatever being and life it has, and to the Word it must turn in order to live wisely and happily. The beginning of an intellectual creature's life is indeed eternal wisdom"
So why 6 days
6 reveals perfect order (aliquots again)
1, then 2, then 3
The hexaemeral order is not extrinsic to God
"Thou hast ordered all things in measure, number and weight, means nothing else than 'Thou hast ordered all things in Thyself."
if Genesis is more interested in Christ as the origin?
Day 1 - 1/6
Day 2/3 - 1/3
Day 4-6 - 1/2
Measure, number, weight
Measure = limit
Number = form
Weight = stability
Book 2 - days 2 & 3 - the beginning of material creation
Book 3 - days 4-6 & creation of humanity
Book 4 - what are days? time. the seventh day.
"the only begotten son of God"
Day 1
Day 2-3
Day 4-6
creatio ex nihilo
production of
the cosmos
populating the
These three represent the divine idea of perfection according to which God created.
The 7th day
What is God's rest?
God gave rest in himself to the rational beings He created...
rest in Him given to rational creatures
Charity given by Holy Spirit into our hearts
Desire and yearning for God
But the text says that God rested after he finished on the sixth day... ?
"we now investigate the repose of God which is clearly his own."
Could signify Christ's rest in the tomb on the Sabbath
or that he rested from creating new creatures
although he does continue to govern
2 affirmations in Gen. Lit. IV.14 (120)
1. God does not rest in a period of time
2. God "rested" on the seventh day
God's rest when rightly understood is His independence of any need for any good outside of himself. (121)
What are days then?
If there is no sun on the first three days, then what does Genesis 1 mean by day?
1. Must be applicable to all seven days
2. Can't be what we mean by 'day'
All creation was simultaneous
but also took place over the six days
Analogy to the human gaze
Travels over space, but at once sees the object in the distance.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father...
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ... through whom all things were made
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life
Drafted in 325
Modified in 381
Written and adopted in response to Christological disputes
Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Recapping Cosmology in Late Antiquity
Radical exemption of the gods
Fate and Providence are indistinguishable
Father/First Cause is Supreme Good
Evil explained by appeal to misuse of free choice
Falling away from supreme good
Pre-existent matter that Father works with
Creation is an outflow of goodness of creator
To be and to be good same thing for the All-highest good
Creation can't be arbitrary
The problem of determinism
vs. Orthodoxy
Creatio ex nihilo
Thomas Aquinas, O.P
Thomas Aquinas
Dominican Friar and Master at University of Paris
Famous for his Summa Theologiae
Question/Answer (quaestiones) method
Commented on Aristotle
God and Creation for Aquinas
"Only God is his own existence."
"it is what it is by its own form"
Therefore, God is not contingent
What does it mean to say "Create"?
ex nihilo vs. from something
existence as a particular vs. universal effect.
There's no change
Breviloquium II.1-2
Creation as an effect of the first principle
the entire world machine was brought into existence in time and from nothing by one First Principle, unique and supreme, whose power, though immeasurable, has arranged all things in measure, number, and weight. (II.1)
In time
from nothing
by one First Principle
unique and supreme
in measure, number and weight
Creatures reflect the creator in three ways:
1. efficient cause
2. exemplary cause
3. final cause
the existence of physical nature
6 days
Speaking of embellishment
Charles Darwin (1809-82)
Studied medicine at Edinburgh and divinity at Cambridge - intended to become a country priest
Voyage on the Beagle 1831-36
natives, fossils, and earthquakes
Lamarck: transmutation of species
Lyell: uniformitarianism - geological changes over time can explain current state of geological affairs
Wallace: selective pressure of survival and reproducing is force of species change.
Aboard the Beagle
read Lyell's *Principle's of Geology*, published c. 1830
collected samples to ship back to Britain.
After the Beagle
Darwin's samples drew much acclaim. Became member of Royal Society
Read Malthus
The theory
(Geologic shifts)
Natural Selection
Reading species generation and extinction through gradual shift, Malthusian population regulation, and Spencerian survival.
4 Principle Themes
1) Descent with Modification
2) Natural Selection
3) Gradualism
4) Population Thinking
Gregor Mendel
Plant Inheritance
"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world".
—Thomas Malthus. An essay on the principle of population. Ch. 7, p61 (1798).
(Survival, fittest)
the mechanism
Selection: natural and domestic
"We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed... we know that this has not been their history." (37)
The priority of domestic animals in "civilized" countries over those in "uncivilized" regions.
Civilized domestic animals and plants are fitter for survival then those in uncivilized regions.
"Over all these causes of Change I am convinced that the accumulative action of Selection, whether applied methodically and more quickly, or unconciously and more slowly, but more efficiently, is by far the predominant Power." (48)
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