THE SIX DAWNS
Author: Alexander Kalomiros
First edition in Greek: 1993
First edition in English: 1997, in the "Ark"
Translated in English by George Gabriel (1997)
Copyright: George Gabriel, 1997
Ôhis translation was originally published in the periodical "THE ARK", which is written and published by Mr. George Gabriel (P.O.Box 1359, Ridgewood, NJ 07451). It was tranferred in this electronic publication in an exact form by the method of electronic scanning and character recognition of the original text. All rights are reserved by George Gabriel.
The book is a valuable reference to the patristic understanding of the creation of Man and the World, according to the description given in the Holy book of Genesis. The writings of our Holy Fathers, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John the Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and their Cosmology are presented in the context of Creation. Their spirit is revealed to be far from the fundamentalist understanding of contemporary scholastics.
According to the patristic teaching, unknown to many Orthodox Christians, our universe originates from a “seed”. Stars, plants, animals, and humans, we all sprouted from the same original seed. All creatures appeared and grew according to their order, like the branches, the leafs and the fruits, in the trees. Especially the chapter on orthodox anthropology is considered to be a theological milestone.
Very carefully clear your minds of all Western conceptions, whether they are theological, philosophical, or scientific. You must forget what is taught [about creation] in your public schools and also your reaction to this teaching. All of it is con- ditioned by human reason and speculation and has as a background a Roman Catholic rationalistic mentality which was also inherited by Protestants. It has infected many "Orthodox" minds as well. The first chapter of Genesis is the narrative about a sequence of events that took place through the word and acts of God. God spoke and creatures came into being. How? It is a mystery. In any case, creation did not come into being instantly, but followed a sequence of manifestations, a development over six different "days". What shall we call this progress of creation in time, if not evolution?
St. Gregory of Nyssa is very clear on this: "Man was made last, after the plants and animals, because nature follows a path that gradually leads to perfection...Thus, nature -- I mean the various properties of life -- makes an ascent as if by steps, from the smallest forms to perfection... The Lawgiver sees a necessary sequence of order for the last to be perfect".
Even if evolutionists today are atheists and they believe in blind and accidental evolution without God's will and action, we should not reject evolution itself. Evolution was taught thousands of years ago by Genesis and explained by the holy Fathers centuries before Darwin. God created the universe in time and with a path from the simplest to the more complex, finishing with His perfect creature: man--perfect because of His image in man, as we shall see, and not because of man's material nature.
Study the first chapter of Genesis carefully, and you will see that creation is described there exactly as modern science describes it. The only difference is that the Bible uses fewer words. But be careful, you must not confuse pure science with the various philosophical theories that try to explain the facts discovered by science. Facts are one thing (pure science) and the explanation of facts (philosophy) is another. Evolution is a fact that no one can contest by searching in the Holy Scriptures and the holy Fathers, or in that "book" which is called the Earth. You must not confuse evolution (fact) with evolutionary theories. These are human conceptions--not always atheistic but always human and rationalistic--whose purpose is to explain how evolution took place. There are many theories of evolution. The theory of Darwin is one, the theory of Lamark is another, the theory of DeVries is another.
Do not be occupied with these theories. Let men try to explain the mystery of creation with their poor but presumptuous minds. We know we cannot enter into these mysteries. At every such attempt we hear the Lord asking us, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" But even if we are not able to explain them, we must stand before the facts with reverence, because facts are truth. And if we must reject rationalistic philosophy, scientific or not, we must not reject pure science, because the Bible says it was given by God to man: "He hath given men science that He may be honored in His wondrous works". (Sirach 38:6)
But to us, much more important than science is the Bible itself, and it teaches that God created in an evolutionary manner. Genesis and science teach the same thing. But Western Christianity was so scandalized by the discoveries of science and corrupted by philosophical rationalistic ideas* about creation, it rejected evolution, giving it over to the hands of atheists as a perfect weapon against Christian faith. And to be sure, many lost faith because of evolution. Both "Christians" and atheists were teaching that if evolution was a fact, the Holy Scripture, and with it the Christian faith, was wrong. But those ["Christians"] who studied in schools of science, or even in regular schools, clearly saw that evolution was a fact.
The Western [religious] mind may be for or against evolution, but it remains always rationalistic. Clear your thought of all that; throw away every preconceived notion. Make your mind clear as a blank sheet of paper and start to study Genesis and the holy Fathers.
Thessalonica, March 9, 1974
(The text above is
from a thesis/letter in English by the author, written at the
request of an Orthodox Christian monastic community in the U.S.)
* The Augustinian theology of Western Christianity could
not accept the idea of change or evolution of any kind, in any
species, because it would mean that the eternal archetypes of the
species in the mind of God, of necessity, were also subject to
change and, therefore, not eternal. The pagan philosophical idea
of eternal archetypes is one of the heretical presuppositions in
Augustinian theology. Another closely related heretical
presupposition of Augustine is the teaching that the uncreated
energies of God--His creativity, prescience, providence, and
will, for example--are the uncreated divine essence itself. For
Augustine, and for the pagan philosophers, God is actus purus, or
pure energy. So evolution of the species not only meant
changeability in the archetypes that are eternally part of God’s
uncreated energy/essence, but it also meant changeability in the
divine essence itself. And if change takes place in God, He is
not eternal and changeless by nature. Indeed, then, He is not
God. For the West, therefore, evolution was tantamount to proof
of the nonexistence of God, that is, God as He had been imagined
by the West. Thus, Western Christianity, in its classic tenets,
was bound to a kind of philosophical or, one might even say,
ontological fixity of the species. (GSG)
PART I. THE WORLD
The first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, is divided into two units that are very unequal in size. The first unit is the history of creation. The second unit is the history of the Patriarchs.
Because the first unit narrates what took place in the six days of creation, it is called the hexaemeron (Gr. six days). It goes from the beginning of the book to Verse 3 of Chapter Two. It describes concisely, though with absolute accuracy, the six stages of creation's development in time. The mystical meaning of the six days is completed in the seventh day, which seals the hexaemeron.
It is impossible for us to understand the Holy Scripture correctly if we are not fully aware that the hexaemeron's text is different from the rest of the book of Genesis. Starting with Verse 4 of Chapter Two, Genesis narrates another story, a different story from the one of creation. After a brief reference to creation in Verses 4 and 5, a hint in Verse 6 about the Holy Spirit as the fountain of life watering the face of the earth, and a concise ontological description of man, the narrative about Paradise begins.
The setting of Paradise is clearly defined. "God planted Paradise toward the East in Eden..". (2:8-14) And the man whom God placed in Paradise "to cultivate it and to keep it" (2:15) now has a name and is called Adam. "And the Lord God took the man He had formed and put him in the garden of delight to cultivate it and keep it..". (2: 15-16)
The second unit of the book of Genesis, then, begins a narrative about a specific blessed and holy place and about a man and a woman who have names. In the hexaemeron's narrative, on the other hand, Genesis speaks about the creation of the universe, of the earth, of the plants, of the animals, and of men. There is no mention in it of Adam and Eve. The hexaemeron narrates a more general history. After the hexaemeron, however, a more specific history begins--the history of people who knew God and spoke with Him Ð the history of Israel. Paradise is a prefiguring of the Kingdom of God, and Adam is the first Patriarch of Israel, which is the nation that knows God.
If we are not keenly mindful of the differences in purpose of the two narratives and we regard one as the continuation of the other, we shall fall into confusion. The hexaemeron's narrative is the more general framework for Genesis' second narrative, the specific account of humanity's acquaintance with God.
The book is called Genesis because it is not only a narrative of creation, but because it is a narrative mainly of the genesis [i.e. beginning] of the Church of Christ Ð the genesis of the Kingdom of God in time, which starts with Paradise, Adam, and Eve.
2. The genesis of the Church
A common but basic error made by Christians today is to think that the Church of Christ was non-existent before Christ. Since grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17), they say the Church therefore was non-existent before Him.
Nevertheless, it is a foundation of our faith that we have known God only because His Son and Word became flesh. There was never any other possibility of acquaintance with God. In the Old as well as the New Testament, people knew the same Divine Person Ð God the Word Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The mystical reality of the presence of the Risen Christ throughout history was always the common consciousness of the Church. We Christians today have forgotten it, even though the Church's hymnology and the writings of the Fathers constantly remind us of it. Simple texts have become incomprehensible in our generation. An example is the much-loved hymn by Kassiani the Nun: "I shall kiss Thine immaculate feet", says "the woman fallen into many sins", the feet "whose steps resounded in Eve's ears in Paradise at sunset, when she hid in fear". (Great Wednesday rnatins) What could be more natural for the Christians who came before us to understand? With her hair the sinful woman wipes Christ's feet and wets them with her tears Ð the same feet Eve heard walking in Paradise after her disobedience, and she hid in fear.
God in the Old Testament, with Whom Adam and the Patriarchs and Prophets of Israel spoke, is none other than the Son of the Virgin, Who "dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14) and Whom "we have heard, Whom we have seen with our eyes, Whom our hands have touched" (1 Jn. 1: 1). The appearances of the Incarnate Word of God to the righteous of the Old Testament are of the same nature as that of Christ's appearances to His disciples after His resurrection. The encounters of the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Myrrh Bearers with the Risen Christ are the mystical communication of corruptible human nature with the incorruptible, with the human nature that the Son of God took on Himself and made incorruptible. They are encounters with the Divine Person of the Word in His human nature, because it is impossible for man to approach the divine nature of the Word. They are encounters with Christ's resurrected nature, the one that became eternal, the one with which He emerged from the tomb and ascended to the heavens, and not the temporal one with which He walked among us. Ultimately, it is communion with the Divine Energy that illuminates, guides, and sanctifies.
How it was possible for people who lived prior to His Incarnation and Resurrection in history to see Him and speak with Him, of course, is something incomprehensible to us humans. We creatures are bound to the current of time and have great difficulty understanding that our Maker and God does not live in time and is not governed by it. Time is a dimension of creation. But God is the Maker and Creator of creation and therefore of time. The laws and dimensions of creation bind and govern us creatures, but not our Maker and Creator. God is free and independent of His creation.
But the kind of time that belongs to our resurrected nature has its own laws and its own makeup, as does the whole of resurrected nature; so also the nature of angels has its own makeup and time. For us who live in a state of corruptibility it is not possible to comprehend incorruptible and resurrected nature's time. We shall taste of it only after the resurrection of the dead, when time as we know it now "shall no longer be".
Therefore, it should not seem so strange that Genesis narrates the genesis of the Church. The people of the Old as well as of the New Testament were the people of God. The Holy Spirit illuminated them all and moved them. It is, what made their souls the souls of faithful people who had knowledge of God and communion with Him. The people of the O.T. awaited the first coming of Christ, and the people of the N.T. await His Second Coming. And the people of both the O.T. and the N.T. await the same eternal Kingdom and have a partial foretaste of it. The people of the N. T., of course, with greater experiential knowledge, wait for Him to come again in glory in His Second Coming and to "make all things new". All of us who are of Jesus Christ are the mystical Body of Christ. All, both of the O.T. and the N.T., "who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham" (Gal. 3:9). All of us are the seed of Abraham, "which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16).
St. Callistus the Patriarch says, "I see miraculously fulfilled what was once promised of old to Abraham by the Incarnate Word manifestly saying, 'I shall multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand at the edge of the sea'...The seed of Abraham which is thus multiplied is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone is the super fulfillment, having the power and unity of the Divinity ...and the race of Abraham, being directly descended from him". (Philokalia, Vol. 4, p. 322)
3. The hexaemeron
The purpose of this small work is not to deal with the whole book of Genesis, or to count the stars in the mystic firmament of the Holy Scripture. Our attention shall be centered on the hexaemeron only Ð the history of creation Ð with but one aim: to help dissolve the misconceptions regarding its critical points that have accumulated through ignorance. It is our basic obligation to the truth to admit that, when we read those few but sweeping lines of the first page of the Holy Scripture, what we see and understand is anything but clear, and our predetermined impressions and popular preconceptions do anything but help us.
We Orthodox Christians know the Holy Scripture is part of the written Tradition of the Church. Therefore, we can study and examine Tradition only within the Tradition of the Church, according to the commandment we have from the Lord, so we can understand it correctly. Only the Church is without error, and only within the Church shall we see light. And the mouths of the Church are her holy Fathers in the homophony of their teaching.
With only these presuppositions we begin the difficult journey in the Paradise of the Holy Scripture. The journey is dangerous because lying in waiting is the serpent who advises us to lean on human knowledge, promising us, "Your eyes shall opened, and you shall be as gods". (Gen. 3:5) But we know we are truly called by our Creator to become "gods and the sons of the Most High". It is not something we can have by our own power and initiative, however, for it is a gift of the Incarnate God. This is why we do not depend on our own devices and on human wisdom, but have recourse in all that the holy people of God taught, who are the abodes of the Holy Spirit and the genuine servants of Christ.
No opposition to human science is intended here, for that is a gilt of God. "He hath given men science that He may be honored in His wondrous works". (Sir. 38:6) Rather, the antithesis is to human wisdom, the prideful confidence in the human mind. Science is the knowledge of things as much as is possible to man, Human wisdom, however, is self-conceited confidence. It makes us certain that we have comprehended and explained facts and things, a confidence that every so often is proved false, yet arrogant man does not come to his senses.
The experiences and knowledge that have accrued from the study of creation in recent centuries cannot of themselves enlighten man so he can see correctly. Knowledge requires an interpreter. And it is why every man faces a dilemma: which interpreter to choose Ð human or godly wisdom?
Let us choose godly wisdom that never disheartens man. Anyone who studies and correctly understands the hexaerneron with the aid of the Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers will see that all the mysteries of creation are illuminated in a singular manner, and science's knowledge receives the only interpretation possible. The Lord has extended His hand to us poor, weak men. Let us also stretch forth our hand and firmly grasp His. The result will be to experience light.
4. The "seed" of the universe
According to the teaching of Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Fathers of the Church who wrote the most about the creation of the world and of man, the universe originated from a "seed". The stars, the plants, the animals, people Ð we are all shoots that sprouted from the same initial seed. The first minuscule matter and energy contained the divine foundations of all things.
Just as every property of a tree is contained in its seed, even when the tree does not exist, likewise every property of the universe was in that initial seed when the universe did not exist. And as the seed of a tree first sends up a small shoot that grows and branches, spreads out and becomes taller, so did the "seed" of the universe. We creatures each developed and appeared in our turn, as did the tree's trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit. "All things, even before each of them existed, were in God's first impulse of creation as if it were the energy of some kind of seminal force that established the beginning of all things". (St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, P.G. 44, 77D) Therefore, since all material creatures originate from the same singular "seed" that the power of God made, we have a natural kinship between us.
God willed to create the world by means of' seeds. It is apparent in plants and animals, which all come from seeds that contain in them all the properties of the whole plant or animal, even if it has not yet developed. From seed every living thing develops little by little and progressively. In the same way, the universe and everything in it developed and spread forth from an initial divine foundation that contained within it the seeds of everything that was created in the course of time.
This is God's method, and it is universal. "The sower went forth to sow his seeds". All the other seeds, of plants, of animals, of people, are types of the initial seed of the universe. The creative and cohesive energy of God willed to put the progeny of the universe and of every creature in that first beginning. "In the beginning..". (Gen. 1:1) The heaven and the earth and all that the earth has given forth were potentially in that initial seed which, "in due season", gave forth all things that have come into existence.
The first beginning "had pangs of birth and was ready to give birth to all things because of the force implanted in it by the Creator. Yet, by divine command, it awaited the assigned times to bring forth to visibility all that it carried within". (Basil the Great, On the Hexaemeron, Homily II, 3).
St. Gregory adds, "The foundation of all things that was laid at once by the unutterable power of God was, as Moses called it, 'the beginning,' that is, the summation, in which all things are contained... ln an instant, God laid down the beginnings and causes and forces for all things collectively. And in the first impulse of His will, He brought together the essence of all things: heaven, ether, stars, fire, air, sea, land, animals, plants..". (P.G. 44, 72A, B)
All things, therefore, originate from a single beginning, from one "seed" into which God placed the fertile power that generated them when their time had come. All things have a kinship between them since they have a common descent from that seed in the beginning. They are shoots, branches, leaves, and fruit of the same tree. "Thus, the sequence in nature, which was received in the beginning from the first command, in turn brings all things into being through the process of time until it arrives at the consummation of all things". (Basil the Great, Hex., Hom. V, 10)
In nature there is a single, unique sequence since its roots and its origin are in the first command of God, which was inclusive of all things. "As in wheat or any other seed, the complete form of the plant is contained...the seminal force is shown by a certain natural order", says St. Gregory of Nyssa (P.G. 44, 229C-237C). And so it was in the beginning: contained in the "seed" of the universe was the potentiality of the entire universe that appeared and developed gradually with the passage of time, just as a tree takes its final shape little by little. "Thus, nature--I mean the various properties of life", says St. Gregory, "makes an ascent as if by steps, from the smallest forms to perfection". (P.G. 44, 148C)
Created nature is a changeable thing; only the divine nature is changeless and stable. "Therefore, such is the nature of all that was made, always growing or waning, having no visible, permanent stability", says Basil the Great. (Hex., Hom. I, 5) St. Gregory says, "It is impossible for created nature to exist without change". (P.G. 44, 184C) Launched with the infinitesimal and all-inclusive primordial "seed" of the universe by God's command, the creation of nature thus developed slowly and advanced "from the smallest forms to perfection" and appeared, as if by steps, ascending the ladder from lower creatures to higher creatures and revealing the "seminal force" with order.
And since creation was a progressive development of the already existing seminal world, it followed an ascent from the imperfect to the perfect. "Man was made last, after the plants and animals", says St. Gregory, "because nature follows a path that gradually leads to perfection". (P.G. 44, 145) He adds, "Man was made last, after every living thing, the Scripture says... The Lawgiver sees a necessary sequence of order for the last to be perfect". (P.G. 44, 148B)
When St. Gregory says, "All things were in God's first impulse of creation", naturally, among "all things" he also includes time, in which all things move and develop. For time is nothing but a dimension of the universe, an interconnection between the motion of each of its elements. Time, mass, and space are dimensions of the universe. We who are part of the universe have these dimensions as the interconnection of our being. But God, the Creator of time, mass, and space, has no natural relation to these and is outside of them. Between God and His creatures lies an ontological abyss, an absolute differentiation. Nothing in creation can be compared with God, because God is the absolute Other.
Because time is a dimension of the universe, it began simultaneous to it. Time and the universe are interconnected and interdependent meanings and realities. As St. Basil says, "Being therefore of one nature with the world, the animals, and the plants, the current of time was created, a flow that continuously hastens to run with the world and stops nowhere...Approximately such is the nature of all that was created, always growing or waning, having no visible permanent stability...He created 'in the beginning,' that is, in the beginning of time, because when it says everything was made 'in the beginning,' of course it does not mean that time is of prior origin than the rest of creation". (Hex., Hom. I, 5)
Time, in whose duration all things grew, is a component of the universe itself. St. Basil says, "Time is a dimension that is coextensive with the composition of the world". (P.G. 29, 560B) There is no universe without time, or time without a universe. God did not need time in order to create. Creation needed it because time is part of creation, its fourth dimension. Time means motion and development. For God, yesterday, today, and tomorrow are equally present since He is not ruled by time as we are.
God, then, did not need the time of six "days" to complete His creation. Creation needed it since time is its dimension, its unfolding, its development. The initial seed contained time within it just as it included even the whole universe. The universe and time unfolded and developed together from that primordial "seed" that God created outside of time.
"It was not difficult for His omnipotent hand and His infinite wisdom to create all things in one day", says St. John Chrysostom, "but what am I saying--in one day? Even in an instant.' He worked in that manner, however, because it was not for His need that He created, for He needs nothing, but He brought all things into being because of His love for man and His kindness. This is why He creates little by little, and He gives us a clear teaching about these events with the tongue of the blessed Prophet (Moses). Thus, having learned accurately, we will not have the mentality of those who think with human reasoning". (3rd Homily on Genesis, P.G. 53, 35)
What, then, is one "day" of the hexaemeron? "One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day". (2 Pe. 3:8) "Therefore, if you say a day or an aeon, you express the same meaning". (Basil the Great, Hex., Hom. II, 8)
6. "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth"
"In the beginning" God made all of creation. The heaven and the earth are all things, every material element. And all things, heaven and earth, have a beginning. Creation has a beginning. It is not beginningless like God. It came into existence from non-existence, and its existence is entirely dependent on God. Ii is not self-existent. It exists only because God wants it to exist. Only God is self-existent. Only He is self existence. He told Moses, "I am that I am", or "I am the Existing One (Ï Ùí)", that is, He is Self Existence, the Fountain of Existence, Existence itself. He freely sustains all things in existence, not out of any necessity, but out of His boundless love.
"In the beginning God made the heaven". What does "heaven" mean? In no way does it mean the angels and what we call heavenly noetic beings and heavenly intelligences. When Genesis speaks of heaven it means the material universe: stars, galaxies, nebulae, every kind of matter in space. In his 2nd Homily on Genesis, St. John Chrysostom says, "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth...The Scripture says nothing about the invisible powers. It does not say, 'In the beginning God made the angels or the archangels.' And there was a reason. It was speaking to the Hebrews, who were very preoccupied with temporal matters and were unable to imagine any kind of noetic thing. It guides them from things perceptible to the senses, to the Creator of all things. And, therefore, learning about the Builder of the universe from created things, they could worship the Creator, instead of worshiping things that were made".
Confirming the same thing, St. Basil says, "As it appears, there did exist something even before this world, something that our mind can contemplate, but it was left undescribed because it is inappropriate knowledge for those who are now just beginning to learn and, in knowledge, are as yet infants". (Hex., Hom. I, 5) Thus, the creation of noetic beings, the creation of the angels, was left unmentioned.
One of the common misinterpretations made by people who study Genesis is the notion that the sun, the moon, and the stars were not created in the beginning but on the fourth "day" of creation, when these heavenly bodies became visible from the surface of the earth. We shall return to this point later, but for the present let us remain with the basic fact that "heaven" in Genesis refers to the material universe: the sun and moon and stars that were all created on the first "day" of creation.
"By the two extremes (of heaven and earth) Moses alludes to the existence of everything", says Basil the Great, "assigning a prior beginning to the heaven and saying that the earth is second in existence. Nevertheless, whatever exists between the two extremes was likewise made with them. Even though he says nothing about the elements of fire, water, and air, use your intelligence, and you will understand, first of all, that all [elements] are mixed with all others and that, along with the earth, you will also find water and air and fire". (Hex., Hom. I, 7)
All things already existed from the first day of creation. "God created the heaven and the earth, not each one by halves, but the entire heaven and the whole earth, including the substance itself with form. He is not merely the inventor of the shapes, but the Creator of the very nature of' all that exists...The Scriptural narrative is silent and exercises our mind to work, giving it a few things in order to be able to deduce from them the remainder". (Basil the Great, Hex., Hom. II, 3)
Therefore, the sun, the stars, and the moon already existed from the first "day", even though they were not visible. That is to say, they were not visible from the earth.
7. "... and the earth"
"God created the heaven and the earth". (1:1) What is the reason for this emphasis on the earth?
God's perspective is not at all like that of astronomy. By astronomy's standards, this planet is small and indeed one of the smallest of heavenly bodies. But in actuality, it is the most important heavenly body, equal to the whole universe in importance. The reason for this, however, is not because the earth is where man lives, but because the earth is where the Lord Jesus Christ was born. It is the land of the God-Man, the spot in the universe where the eternal will of God was fulfilled and the hypostatic union of God with His creation took place.
Even if we were to suppose that other inhabited planets exist in the universe, their life would be nothing in comparison to life on earth. Man, the ruler of the earth, is also ruler of the universe because he was made in the image of the Son of Man--the man par excellence--Jesus Christ, in whose face we see God Himself because Jesus is His Son and Word. Any other life, on this or any other planet, even if it were biologically equal to ours, would not in the least approach the ontological and spiritual worth of but one creature in the universe: man. For it is this creature who is made in the image of God, that is, according to the prototype of Jesus Christ, Who rose from the dead and ascended to the heavens and is seated on the throne of God.
For this reason, Genesis, having mentioned the heaven once, gives no further information about the universe and describes only what took place on earth. In other words, it describes whatever an observer could have seen from the earth's surface, whatever Moses probably saw in a vision and wrote about it.
8. The water
It is clear from the second verse of Genesis (1:2) that the earth was covered by a dense layer of water vapor. It was dense enough to block every ray of the sun from passing through, so that complete darkness reigned on the surface of the earth. The water that had been in vaporous form because of the heat of the earth's crust began to cool slowly and change to liquid. It covered the whole earth like an enormous ocean. The change from vapor to liquid caused the clouds that covered the earth to disperse, and the diffused rays of the sun were able to pass through to illuminate the surface of the earth. This is exactly what Genesis relates with the words, "And God said, let there be light, and there was light". (1:3) And later the vaporized water parted altogether from the water of the ocean, and a space was made between the two that Genesis calls the "firmament" (1:6-8). This is the sky between the earth and the clouds. Much later, on the fourth day of creation, the vapors diminished further, the clouds began to break up and scatter the way we see them today, and the heaven cleared and opened. Upon the heaven clearing up, the sun and moon and stars appeared at the same time before the face of the earth, and from this point everything that existed on the surface of the earth was illuminated by direct and not only diffused rays of the sun.
To help us better understand what happened, Basil the Great gives us a precise picture: " 'But the earth was not visible and unfinished (1:2),' Moses says. How is it, if both the heavens and the earth were of equal honor, that the heavens were brought to perfection and the earth is still imperfect and unfinished? Or, generally what was the lack of preparation of the earth? And for what reason was it not visible? ...Since nothing of what was to sprout and grow existed yet, it was reasonable for the narrative to call it incomplete...It said the earth was not visible for two reasons: because either man was not in existence to see it, or it was under the water that covered it and it was impossible to be seen. The waters had not yet been gathered into their places that God made later and called 'seas.' What, then, is 'not visible?' First, something that bodily eyes naturally cannot see, such as our thought. It is also something that is naturally not visible but covered by something else, such as iron in the depth [of the earth]. I think it is with this meaning exactly that the earth is called invisible, since it was covered by water. And later, of course, since light may not have been made yet, it is not at all strange that the Scripture also calls it invisible because it was still in darkness and the air over it had not yet been illuminated...
"Therefore, since it does not say that God created the water but that 'the earth was not visible,' think for yourself by what it was covered that it was not plainly seen. Certainly tire was able to cover it, but fire gives light and can be seen through, allowing whatever it covers to be seen, rather than darkening it. And neither was the air opaque at that time. And air by nature is thin and transparent, admitting all forms of visible objects and displaying them for the eyes of observers. So what remains is for us to understand that water abounded on the surface of the earth because the liquid had not yet settled to its appointed place. And for this reason the earth was not only invisible, but unfinished as well, because when an abundance of water covers it, even now, the earth is prevented from bearing fruit. Therefore, the same cause made the earth both invisible and unfinished". (Hom. II, 1, 3)
And what is the meaning of the words "And darkness was on the face of the deep" (1:2)? The Saint continues, "Here again are more occasions for myths and sources of impious fabrications by men who twist the sayings [of Scripture] to agree with their own conceptions. They do not explain the darkness to be what it really is: air that does not receive light, or a place that is shaded or, in any case, bereft of light for any reason. They explain it as an evil power, or rather as self-existent evil itself that is adversarial and hostile to God... Why, 0 man, do you flee far from the truth, with intentions that will occasion your destruction? The expression is simple and understood by everyone. It says the earth was not visible. What was the reason? Because it was covered by the 'deep.' And what is the meaning of the 'deep?' A great deal of water of unfathomable depth..". (Hom. 1I, 4)
"When the heaven was made by God's command, in a moment it extended to f ill its region, and it enclosed all that was in it as a continuous mass capable of dividing what was contained within from what was outside of it, thus making the space it enclosed unlighted by cutting off external light. Three things together are necessary for a shadow to exist: the light, a mass, and an unlighted place. Therefore, the darkness that covered the earth was due to the shadow of the heavenly mass [of vapor]. Try to understand me through this clear example: At midday you set up a tent of thick, impenetrable material and you shut yourself up in this improvised darkness. This is how you should imagine that darkness...At that time the water covered everything. This is why the darkness necessarily was said to be over the deep". (Hom. II, 5)
It is clear from the preceding texts that on the first day of creation the heaven was completed, including the sun, the moon, and all the stars. But they were not visible; neither was their light able to reach the surface of the earth due to the layer of water vapor that covered the earth. Later, when the vapors dispersed, the diffused light of the sun was able to reach the surface of the earth and illuminate it, much as it does on cloudy days. The vapors thinned out as the water cooled and passed from a gaseous to a liquid state. In this way the earth was hidden by a vast ocean that covered it completely. Dense clouds remained suspended in the atmosphere. Between these clouds and the ocean there was clear space, which the Scripture calls the "firmament" (1:6-8). Finally, much later, on the fourth day of creation, the clouds dispersed and broke up and separated as we see them today, permitting the clear sky to appear, and the sun, the moon, and the stars with it. (St. John Chrysostom explains these things in exactly the same way in his Third Homily on Genesis.)
9. The Spirit of God
Another very important point where we ought to stop is the meaning of the passage "And the Spirit of God was stirring, above the water". (1:2) These words are of primary significance and are a key to understanding the beginning of life on the earth. And again, Basil the Great shows us their meaning:
"The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of God because this name is given to It alone by the Holy Scripture. There is no other Spirit of God named, but the Holy Spirit, Who completes the Divine and Blessed Trinity. How, then, was It stirring above the waters? I will tell you an explanation that is not my own, but that of a Syrian who was as distant from worldly wisdom as he was near the knowledge of truth. He used to say that the [Syriac] language of the Syrians is more expressive and more closely approaches the meaning of the Scripture because it is related to Hebrew. The meaning of the phrase is this: The words 'stirring above,' they say, are in place of 'warming with fostering care,' that is, the Spirit was imbuing the nature of the waters with life, in the image of a bird brooding on its eggs and injecting them with some vital power as they are being warmed. He says, then, that in [his] language, the Spirit was 'stirring' means It was preparing the nature of the waters to bring forth life. And for the few people who inquire about it, this ".s an effective reply to show that the Holy Spirit is not lacking in the creative energy". (Hom. II, 6)
On this point, St. John Chrysostom is clearer yet. He says, "The Spirit of God was stirring above the water. What is meant by this? It seems to me it means that a fertile power was in the waters, and it was not merely inert and static, but active and prolific. Because anything that is inert is perfectly useless, but anything that is active and mobile is useful for many things. Therefore, to teach us that the water, which was of such enormous dimensions, had within it a fertile power, the Scripture says, 'The Spirit of God was stirring above the water.' And this was not said in the Holy Scripture without a purpose, but because, further down, it narrates how all living things, by command of the Creator, originated from the waters". (Third Homily on Genesis)
We see that the Fathers of the Church knew and taught that life on earth began to develop on the first "day" of Genesis, in the dark waters that covered the whole earth and which the Holy Spirit kneaded so they could become the womb of life. And this, in fact, was not an instantaneous action but something that progressed with time, in other word".: a continuous causal activity of the Holy Spirit. This is made clear by the continuous duration of the tense of the verb in "was stirring over" (åðåöÝñåôï, in the Septuagint O.T.). The Holy Spirit was stirring above the waters continuously, and not just once, like the bird continuously sitting on its eggs, imparting slow and steady development to the embryos in them. This shows the continuous effect of the activity of God in the development of creation within time. God acts in all of creation's dimensions, and time is one of those dimensions. The Holy Spirit acts upon the immense and dark ocean and creates life in it.
10. One day (the first day)
"And there was evening, and there was morning: one day". (1:5) To understand Genesis properly, we need to pause at another stumbling block Ð the meaning of the word "day".
Why does the Septuagint O.T. not call the first day of creation "first", but "one", "one day?" Because the first day is an image and a prefiguring of that Sabbath which is the preeminent "one of all Sabbaths, the queen and mistress" of all Sabbaths. It is an image and prefiguring of the day of the Resurrection, which is the beginning of the "eighth day", the incorrupt, eternal, and unending day. Therefore, Genesis names the first day "one day", because it is an image of eternity.
Basil the Great asks, "Why did Moses say 'one' and not 'first?' For someone who was about to speak of the 'second' and 'third' and 'fourth' day, would it not have been more consistent to call the day that preceded the others the 'first' day? Nevertheless, he called it 'one'...He named the summation of time not 'first,' but 'one,' so that by its name it may make clear its relation to the unending age...the great and pre-eminent day of the Lord...the day without evening and without succession, which the Psalmist has also named the 'eighth day' because it is outside of our seven-day cycle of time. Thus, if you say a day or an aeon, you express the same meaning". (Hex., Hom. II, 8) Therefore, if the first day is an image of eternity, we can see that in Genesis the word "day" does not have the usual everyday meaning, but a mystical one.
Similarly, as we shall see later (Part II, Ch. 23), there is a mystical meaning of the seventh day, too, on which the Lord rested from all His works. The mystical meaning of the "days" of Genesis, of course, is not related to our measurement of time or to the day-night and 24-hour cycle that is used here only as an image and type of other deeper and mystical things. The meanings in the Holy Scripture do not have human shallowness, but indicate things that man can begin to understand only with the light of the divine mysteries, i.e., the events of the New Testament, and in the reality that is grace. "My ways are not like your ways", says the Lord.
11. Let the waters bring forth...
So we are looking at an astounding narration. The earth is covered with water vapor that is impenetrable by light. The vapor cools little by little and becomes liquid, forming a vast, dark ocean that covers everything. In time, a "firmament" separates the liquefied water of the ocean and the vaporized water of the clouds, and light falls on the vast ocean that covers the entire earth; it is a diffuse light like that of a cloudy day. And later God commands the water to be gathered into the system of seas, and the dry land to appear. And on the dry land, the herb of grass springs up and then the trees with hard wood because, even before the sun and the other heavenly bodies appear, diffuse light falls on the vegetation. Only later, when the clouds had further dispersed, the luminaries appeared in the heaven which light our paths and enable us to distinguish day and night, signs and seasons, and days and years.
Perhaps Moses is describing things which the grace of God, in a mystical manner, enabled him to see as they had happened, like some immense vision when he encountered the Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Sinai. Genesis does not give details about the various stages of life in the oceans. It says only that the Holy Spirit "was stirring above the water", and it gives us to understand that the "Giver of life" was imbuing the nature of the waters with life and filling the waters with reptiles, that is, with "creeping living things" (1:20). Genesis is not a manual of astronomy or zoology. It makes no mention at all of insects; it is as if they never existed. Neither does it speak at all of the outer universe. It makes only succinct references to the most essential things, using few words, but words of decisive meaning.
Only when life came up out of the sea onto dry land on the fifth day does the Scripture begin to give more details: "And God said, Let the waters bring forth creeping living things and winged creatures onto the earth that fly in the firmament of heaven". (1:20) The phrase "let the waters bring forth" is a clear command by God to the waters to bring out onto the land something which they already contained, that is, the reptiles. The verb "bring forth" used by the Septuagint O.T. is åîÜãù (exa´go): "to lead or bring something out". What, then, did the "waters bring forth...onto the earth?" Nothing more than they contained: fish. By the command of God, fish began to come out of the sea onto the land. They walked on their fins and tails, slowly going in and out of the water.
Thus, fish gave forth creeping amphibians on the fifth day of creation. But the command of God did not stop there. He said, "Let the waters bring forth creeping living things and winged creatures onto the earth that fly in the firmament of heaven". The fish gave forth not only reptiles, but also "winged creatures onto the earth that fly". According to the Holy Scripture, therefore, the first winged creatures, the first birds of the fifth day, were directly related to the reptiles brought forth by the waters. In other words, they were flying reptiles.
Fish, reptiles, birds Ð three animal species with great similarities in anatomical and zoological characteristics. And all three lack the ability to bear live offspring in their bodies. They lay eggs in which their offspring develop, outside their mother's body.
"And God made the great whales". (1:21) Which whales is Genesis speaking of here? It is not speaking of what we call whales today, of course. Whales are highly developed animals with the ability to bear their offspring in their bodies. Consequently, they are mammalian, animals of the sixth day. The Scripture is speaking here of other whales, of the enormous reptiles called dinosaurs.
The Holy Scripture here no longer presents the animals that walk on the earth on the sixth day as having any relation with the sea, but with the dry land: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind, quadrupeds and reptiles and wild beasts of the earth according to their kind". (1:24) "Let the earth bring forth..".
The reptiles and birds that appeared on dry land on the fifth day have as their origin the sea. The sea brought them forth; they came out from it. The "quadrupeds" and "wild beasts" and "reptiles" of the sixth day now have the land as their origin. In other words, they came from animals that no longer lived in the sea like those of the fifth day, but on the land.
The animals of the sixth day, the "quadrupeds" of Holy Scripture, are very similar among themselves, but very different from the animals of the fifth day. The animals of the fifth day develop their fetuses outside their own bodies. The animals of the sixth day develop their fetuses in their bodies. The fifth day is the period of the reptiles; the sixth day is the period of the mammals. The reptiles, of course (and among them are birds that were flying reptiles), continued to exist on the sixth day and to develop along with the mammals. But alongside the old reptiles that had four legs to move about with on the sixth day, there were also reptiles with no feet at all, that crept about without them: the snakes.
"And God made the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind, and cattle according to their kind, all the reptiles of the earth according to their kind, and God saw that they were good". (1:25) "Wild beasts...cattle...quadrupeds...reptiles of the earth", the animals of the sixth day. The Scripture names all mammals "quadrupeds", all carnivorous mammals "wild beasts", and all grazing mammals "cattle". It calls "reptiles of the earth" all land reptiles in contrast to the reptiles of the sea, that is, the reptiles that lived in the sea and came directly from sea animals, as were the reptiles of the fifth day.
12. The kinship of creatures
We see Genesis teaches that God appointed to creation a development in time, from the simple to the complex, from the incomplete to the more complete, from the lower to the higher. The world was not created in an instant, but in six successive periods of perfection, with the most perfect creatures coming into existence on the last day. Life ascended in steps, from the lowest forms to the highest. This is the lesson of the hexaemeron: the development and kinship of creatures.
There is a close relationship and kinship among all things that were created. Creatures are not alien to one another; they are not disconnected from one another. They constitute branches of the same tree and shoots from the same primordial seed. Creation is not a mosaic of unrelated pieces that the Creator has patched together. It is an organic whole. Things are not independent of one another, but are connected by something that unites all created things with an unbreakable bond--a natural connection. The universal natural connection that joins all things among themselves without exception is the bond of physical birth; one created thing is born from another. It is difficult to emphasize this fact sufficiently. There are no gaps in the continuous chain of creatures that are born one from the other. On the tree of creation there are no branches that are independent and disconnected from one another as if they were suspended only in air. Life is not discontinuous. No plant or animal gives birth to itself. There is no automatic birth. God does not will for us live as autonomous and egoistic beings. There are no gaps between individuals and between species.
One of the basic errors in understanding the hexaemeron is the idea that the fixity of species emphasized by Genesis rules out a universal bond among all created things, and that the first individual of each species is detached and independent without any relation to other living beings. Those who support this delusion, in actuality, teach the ontological fragmentation of creation, and they reject the foundations of the Christian Faith.
It is a fundamental Christian teaching that in the human nature of Christ the whole of creation is recapitulated or summed up, not only all of humanity, not only the human nature, but the entire universe Ð the stars, the plants, the animals, anything that has existence. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now", says St. Paul, in the earnest expectation of the redemption of the children of God, the redemption that was accomplished in the person of the risen Christ. This redemption is given for all of creation precisely because creation is a unique and unbroken whole. All of creation fell into corruptibility and death in the person of one man, the first Adam. The same creation in its entirety rose up to eternal life and incorruptibility in the person of the second Adam, Christ. The fall of the whole creation in the person of one man happened precisely because the entire tangible world is one unified nature. We are made from the dust of the stars. The stars, the earth, the mountains, and all living creatures are under corruptibility and death because one free and reasoning creature, man, cast them there. And for the same reason, all of them emerged from the condition of corruptibility and death into life and incorruptibility because one man, the God-Man Jesus Christ, brought them out of it by joining in His person the created and the uncreated and by imparting to the created the immortality of incorruptibility, the eternity and life of the uncreated.
The unity of human nature with the whole of creation is the reason as much for corruptibility as for salvation, incorruptibility, and eternity. Because in the person of Christ all of creation and not only humanity became joined to its Maker.
Before the appearance of man on earth, all living things, even the stars of the universe, were dying because of man, in a period when man did not yet exist. Mollusks and fish were dying in the oceans in the first days of creation, not only before man appeared on the sixth day, but much earlier than the appearance of the first reptiles on land on the fifth day. Why were they dying before the existence of man if not because they were connected with him ontologically? If man was not to come from them, why were the fish in the oceans, the reptiles, and the birds of the fifth day eating one another because of the fall? Why would nature have to suffer from the beginning, to groan and travail, if not because of the free action of the last creature to appear on the earth, if not because all creatures were connected one with the other in an unbroken natural bond? And what natural bond exists in nature other than genealogy, the fact that we are born one from the other?
Man's revolt against God not only had consequences from the appearance of man and after it; it had the same consequences for everyone and everything that lived before it, long before it. It was because of the ontological unity in creation, which is not contingent upon the course of time. Of course, it was not because of some kind of revenge by God. The will of God was nothing but a prescription for life, and man's revolt against it brought corruptibility and death upon creation for the simple reason that it separated man from the source of life and immortality, which is God. It was man and not God who raised up a wall that separated him from his Creator. And it was this separation that brought corruptibility and death, since life and incorruptibility are God.
Therefore, the result of the transgression was ontological, not judicial. It struck the nature of creatures because it deprived nature of the life giving energy of grace. The nature of man is shared by all. And it is common not only to all men, but to all creatures, because we humans are made from dust, like all things in the universe. "And God made man dust of the earth". (2:7)
In the person of Christ, the spiritual nature of Divinity was united to the material nature of humanity. And through humanity in the person of Christ, Divinity came in contact with nature, with the entire creation: with animals, plants, and stars, on the one hand; and with angels and heavenly intelligences, on the other. But we know very little about the heavenly intelligences, and the dimensions in which they live are beyond us. Thus, it is wise for us to be silent and, at the same time, to know that the mystery of the salvation of the world applies directly to them as well.
God took on human and not angelic nature, because it contains elements of the entire creation Ð noetic and animalistic. The noetic nature of angels does not share the nature of animals, but the nature of men shares both. Thus, man has elements of the entire creation, and he is the representative par excellence of the nature of creation.
So, we and all of creation are a singular, organic whole Ð humans, angels, animals, plants, inert things, reasoning and unreasoning beings. And all receive the vivifying sap of the divine energy that keeps us in existence and nourishes us spiritually.
The grace and gift of God are transmitted to all creatures according to their purpose. Just as in some trees the energy of the sun and water become a sweet fruit and in others they are a bitter and deadly portion, it is the same in reasoning creatures. And just as some creatures are large trees that give an abundance of nourishing fruit white others are humble herbs, it is the same with all of God's creatures. All receive the grace and gift of God, and each responds according to its nature and purpose.
13. Variations in species
If we descend one from the other without a break or gap between us and the species have a fixity that we can observe and is also emphasized by the Holy Scripture, how, then, did we develop into so many varieties of plants and animals? How did the primordial seed of the universe sprout so many limbs and branches on this wondrous and imposing tree of life that we know and live in, and of which we constitute one division?
Every seed develops in approximately the same manner. While we can observe and know many of the mechanisms of this mystery of life, it is only with great difficulty that we are able to understand some of the others. And still others escape our understanding altogether. Life is the daily miracle we live in. We see it and we don't see it. We touch it, and just when we think we've grasped it, it slips between our fingers.
How are variations in species created when the fixity of species is a given? Hybridization is one mechanism that creates varieties. Alteration in genes is another very significant mechanism, and there are others. The combination of all of them in concert with time produced the varieties we know. Indeed, the providence of God is the regulator and coordinator of all that takes place. Nothing is by chance. God does not work like a sculptor. He has His own ways. Who can contend that, because we know the mechanism by which we were born from our mother, we were not really created by God?
The creation of each man, of each one of us, presents in sharp relief how all creatures were made. In our mother's womb we are a one-celled organism like the first organisms that swam in the dark ocean in the first days of creation. We develop into a fetus that even has rudimentary gill slits that are of no use to us. The fetus develops and is completed and born as an infant. The infant becomes a toddler, later a teenager, and finally an adult. "The first-made man", writes Athanasius the Great, "was made from the earth, as are all men. And the hand of God that created Adam then is the same hand again that, now and always, creates and forms all who are born after him". (P.G. 25, 438) And as Basil the Great writes, "Our amazement at the greatest phenomena is not lessened because it is discovered how one of those extraordinary things comes about". (Hex., Hom. I, 10) Truly! When we became fully cognizant of the fact that the stars are not merely bright ornaments in a rotating dome, but huge suns, even larger than our own, amidst galaxies in an immense space, our amazement and awe before our Creator became incomparably greater because the grandeur of creation became clear. This is how it is always; it suffices for one to have a heart and an open mind and not to have lost his ability to be astonished. Before our eyes, creation takes new dimensions, always greater and always more amazing. And we not only marvel, but we also understand the Holy Scripture better.
A research scientist said if he were asked to provide a one-page summary of all the knowledge that exists today regarding the world and creation, he would not be able to find anything better than the first page of the Holy Scripture. It is true. But most people understand neither the Holy Scripture properly, nor the world.
Continues on Part II