An Examination of Augustine’s Commentaries on Genesis One and Their Implications on a Modern Theological Controversy

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Few individuals in church history are as popular as Augustine of Hippo. His impressive body of work on diverse subjects, combined with his tremendous influence on Roman Catholics and Protestants, have led believers to imbue Augustine’s writings with great authority. Consequently, he is frequently cited by those seeking support for their particular position on theological matters. This practice is especially observed in the creation versus evolution and age of the earth debates. Young-earth creationists, theistic evolutionists, old-earth creationists, and intelligent design proponents have each claimed Augustine as one of their own and each of these scholars has provided quotations of Augustine which seem to support their view.

The famous church father wrote four separate commentaries on the first chapter of Genesis. This paper surveys these works and demonstrates that Augustine was not concerned with the modern controversy. Nevertheless, his purpose for writing each commentary and the varying hermeneutic throughout these works has led to the confusion that exists concerning his beliefs. Modern participants in the age of the earth debate can gain remarkable insight from these commentaries. Biblical creationists have repeatedly warned about the dangers of allegorizing narrative passages and reinterpreting the text based on the science of the day. Since these two practices are exemplified in Augustine’s writings on Genesis, readers will see why the literal historical-grammatical hermeneutic protects one from making egregious interpretive errors.

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from Answers in Genesis

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